The Hardest Goodbye Yet

There are some mistakes you only make in life once. Obvious things like petting a bear, licking a fire, and trying to get out of downtown Seattle at 5:15. In 45 minutes we moved a mile, staring at green lights but unable to move. We vowed to never be tempted downtown at this hour again. But as we watched the collage of red lights slowly move forward and listened to a melody of infuriated drivers screaming at one another, I silently gave thanks that soon my commute would be from my tent to the camp kitchen. My freeway the unmarked game trails of Hanson Island, my home the warm table next to the wood stove in Paul and Helena’s house, a can of Kokanee in my hand. But my freedom comes with a price, the hardest goodbye so far.


Nine months ago Brittney’s uncle offered her the chance to house sit for him while he selfishly went on his honeymoon to Europe for five weeks. With the island squarely in my sights I knew I couldn’t wait another month. I’d miss the peak of the orca summer season with my only consolation being a weekly pilgrimage to Safeco Field. I had to go back. But Brittney had to stay. Over the past couple years we’ve talked a lot about pushing ourselves, growing as people, taking chances, and stepping outside our comfort zone. Leaving Juneau was a huge risk, but we had each other. This coming winter will be a great challenge, but we’ll have each other. It’s time to see how brave we can be alone.


For the first time in her life, she won’t have a roommate (unless you count the three cats, dog, and rabbit) and she’ll willingly admit that it’s hard for her to be alone. Now she gets five weeks of it. But what is so admirably is that it wasn’t forced upon her, no one guilted or pressured her into the upcoming living arrangement, this is her choice. She’s choosing to face her fear head on, and overcome it.


Granted, there are millions of people in this city and countless yoga studios, it’s not like she’s under house arrest or anything. But anyone whose married knows you can spend all day with people and still feel alone at the end of it if the house is empty. I can track orcas all night, but whenever they let me sleep, there will still be just one body in our two man tent. In a way I feel trapped. The thought of leaving Brittney behind makes my whole body heart, but the thought of staying in Seattle for another month while orcas stream past the lab makes me squirm in my seat. For the first time since Brittney worked in Gustavus, we don’t belong in the same place. Our challenges lie 400 miles and a country apart.


There are two ways we can go about this. We can be miserable, consumed with the pain of knowing the other is so far apart (and yes, there are times we will give in to this). Or we can seize the opportunity that it is. A chance to grow as individuals, to become better people. Pursue those personal goals that have floated in the back of our mind that we haven’t had a chance to pursue yet. And yes, we will be the only people we’ll see for most of the winter, so some time apart may be a good idea for sanity this winter as well.


So tomorrow we’ll make the drive to Vancouver and say goodbye. I’ll board a bus Saturday and begin to make my way back to where I started. But today, I’m not going to think about it. I’m going to savor every moment with this wonderful woman that I get to share my life with, and take solace in the fact that I get to spend the entire winter, and the rest of my days, with her.


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