If the wind had a melody, I imagine it would sound something like this.
This song that sounds like the wind is from the soundtrack to Monsoon Wedding, which my mother gave me before I left home in 2003. I was sixteen and spending the summer in Albuquerque, New Mexico for a research internship with NASA. It was the first time I spent a significant stretch away from home, and like most first-time experiences in our teen years, it felt life-changing.
It was in Albuquerque that I learned to wear sunscreen on my face every day, where first ate real Mexican food, where I discovered Fourier Transforms and MATLAB, and where I had my first kiss (in a library, incidentally). I made friends, felt the first quickened heartbeats of puppy love, and I saw the desert for the first time. My eyes were opened and my heart was stretched, and I wanted to keep running west, south, farther away.
I listened to this wind song on the plane ride home at the end of my eight weeks in New Mexico, and cried audibly. I remember staring out the window and consciously converting the sounds in my ears into a promise to myself. Whatever this sensation was, it was a calling to go somewhere. Anywhere. Leave. And I would heed it.
I heard the wind many times in the following years, usually at inconvenient times. It pulled me out of places, relationships, and jobs. It broke my heart and others’. And although it laid dormant for while, it has returned.
“So, now that you’ve spent a year traveling, did you get it all out of your system? You ready to settle down now?”
Should I be ready to settle down now? I’ve fielded some version of this question a thousand times since I returned home in September, as if the desire to leave is finite and curable. Like a stomach virus that can be purged, a temporary deviation from a normal state of being. “Nope, but I think one more trip to Mexico should do the trick! Montezuma’s Revenge will knock it right out of me for good!”
There is plenty to keep me happy here: well-paying jobs, my loving family, reliable indoor plumbing, The Colbert Report, pumpkin pie, Pandora, my car. And I suppose there are adventures to be had in the United States. New York City and Philadelphia are in my backyard. In the past week, I’ve eaten Thai noodles, Colombian bandeja paisa, and imported Greek olives. The variety is infinite and the service impeccable.
And let’s be real, the freedom and capability to pick up and leave is a luxury known only to a few. Sure, my grandparents up and left rural Ireland fifty years ago, but not to backpack and Instagram; for them, it was a matter of survival. I can’t expect them to understand why I am willingly leaving “the best country in the world.” It’s almost a slap in the face.
Leaving isn’t necessarily a solution to any problem. It’s not a better, happier, or easier life. It’s simply taking a different sort of risk than the risk of staying home. Maybe it’s the risk of over-doing rather than the risk of under-doing. I’ll opt for the former.
I am leaving, loves. This time it’s for work rather than for play. I can’t wait to share the details with you, but first I’ll be enjoying the holidays at home. And that melody, the wind, will be humming in my ears and tugging on my hair endlessly, through hot cocoas and Christmas carols and lots of hugs goodbye.