In a previous blog, I talked a little bit about leaving situations or relationships and decided to revisit that now. We are programmed to think that all good things should last forever and if they don’t we didn’t do something right or we didn’t try hard enough, but I disagree with this idea. I believe that some things (situations, relationships) come into your life for a period of time, and although they may be amazing, they are meant to end. Some of the biggest blessings that I have had are in situations and relationships that have ended; not because I was happy or relieved that they were over, but because I was able to appreciate them and then effectively leave something that ran its course.
When I was 25 I decided to make a major life change and move out of the country, but leaving wasn’t easy. At the time I worked as a child abuse investigator, had purchased my first home a year prior, just finished a Master’s program in Homeland Security, and was insanely attached to my social community in San Diego. However, in my effort to pursue a dream to work as an agent for the FBI, I decided that the best course of action was to move to another country to learn Spanish (in hopes of increasing my desirability for hire). It was July of 2008 when I started toying with the idea of leaving. So I applied and was accepted into a graduate program in Argentina, rented out my house to a family, and quit my job. Within a month I landed in Argentina, with a return ticket for 10 months later.
I’ll never forget stepping into the airport for the first time, and the realization of what I was doing finally hit. Prior to this I had traveled significantly. I studied in London and traveled Western Europe, studied in China, and visited various Asian countries. In total, I have had the privilege of stepping into over 14 different countries- but this experience was different, because never before had I been alone. This time I was increasingly aware that no one was with me to help me figure this all out, and not knowing the language, another person, or my way around the city, for the first time traveling, I had a feeling of fear creep inside. Yet I tried as much as possible to push through it, and after a few weeks I was beginning to adapt to my new home.
With my main goal of learning another language I knew I needed to meet and become good friends with native speakers. Prior to getting on the plane, the one place I researched was a climbing gym; so within a few weeks I found the gym and went climbing. I believe it was my first or second day climbing that I met my good friend Johanna. Johanna (Jo) was American, who was also in Argentina to learn Spanish (but her Spanish was insanely good in comparison to mine), and we became fast friends. We climbed, camped, learned all of the ins and outs of each other, and soon I remember knowing that I came to Argentina to meet her.
Jo and I had many similarities, climbing and sushi being only two of them. I loved camping and climbing with Jo. It was exhilarating hiking into isolated mountains with all of our gear on our backs, knowing that we would take care of each other. Even though I climbed before I met Jo, she was the one who really taught me everything I needed to know about climbing besides simply (or not so simply) going up. She taught me anchors, trad climbing (traditional climbing: placing gear as you go), multi-pitch climbing, down climbing, prusiks knots, and everything else you can think of. I remember her telling me that her previous boyfriend had taught her everything that she knew, and she was happy to pass along the knowledge to me. Then I told her, “I’m happy that in years to come I get to say that my friend Jo taught me how to climb.” And that’s how it was with her–I couldn’t get enough of her.
In addition to my amazing friendship with Jo, I also met a boy (hehe). He spoke little English, but knew so many English words, that somehow we were able to communicate. He was a climber and a scuba diver. I remember my friend telling me before I left San Diego, “Sam, I know you don’t like boyfriends, but you need to find a boyfriend down there. You’ll learn Spanish in no time.” So, organically it happened and it was amazing.
His name was Adri and he was perfect. He was intelligent, athletic, funny, but mostly very kind. We spent 8 months climbing, walking, exploring the country, and somehow, with the limited way we could verbally communicate with one another, we became amazing friends. He taught me so much about his country, his language, and myself. We became close quickly for a few reasons; one reason was that he was one of the few people I knew and me being in such a different place, that is sort of the perfect combination for bonding. In addition to this, I also knew that I was leaving. I normally had so many reasons not to get into a relationship, but since I knew I was leaving, my guard was down and I allowed myself to just experience the relationship without worrying about how it would impact my life in the long run.
I remember, when a few months before I was scheduled to leave, I began having dreams that I was back in San Diego. I woke up feeling so relieved that I was dreaming. I knew I wanted to return to San Diego, and there were many people and reasons that I was excited to get back home; but I also knew that I would never repeat my time in Argentina, I would never have three week camping trips with Jo again, and I wouldn’t walk the streets of Villa La Angostora with Adri. I knew that this amazing and special part of my life would end and I wasn’t naïve enough to believe that I could get it all back one day.
Over the course of my life I have learned to be very adaptable, and although I knew I would be sad to leave this life that I had built thousands of miles away; I also knew that I would be able to easily move on from any sadness I would experience. But I remember one night in particular. It was two nights before my flight was scheduled to leave and Adri and I were back in Buenos Aires, walking the streets. I remember the smell of the air, the bustle of the streets, and holding Adri’s hand. I looked at him and made a mental note: “Please Sam remember how much this person has meant to you.” A few days later Adri and Jo took me to the airport, and after 11 months (I postponed my flight), I got on the plane, waved goodbye to the two most important people in my life at that moment, and said goodbye to Argentina.
I was sad, and there were moments that I toyed with the idea of returning. I thought I could go to grad school in Buenos Aires, I could get a work visa, and I could see where this relationship could go with Adri. But ultimately I knew those were emotions talking. I couldn’t make decisions, as romantic as it would be, based on just emotions. However, I also told myself that if after six months I still wanted to return, then I would go back. Well, six months came and went, and Skype calls between both Adri, Jo, and myself faded. In the past seven years I’ve spoken to both only a handful of times, and can go for weeks without even thinking of Argentina. But then something happens; either I hear a song or for some reason smell the Argentine air (much like the air on my last night in Buenos Aires); and I am taken right back to those special days in South America. Feelings of friendship, sadness, love, and happiness all flood me.
I don’t know what would have happened if I would have decided to stay in Argentina, but I do know that not all amazing situations or relationships are supposed to last forever. Sometimes we stay in situations because they feel so good and we live in a world of utter indulgence. If it feels good then it must be “meant to be.” And maybe it is, but also “meant to be” doesn’t necessarily mean forever. Sometimes we should leave those amazing moments in time while things are still good, instead of forcing something and later ending things with bitterness. I know without a doubt in my mind that I made the right choice to return to San Diego, and I never have regrets about my decision. However, I also know that my time in Argentina was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I was blessed to spend a small portion of my life with two outstanding and kind people who I will always hold in the deepest places in my heart. I always remember that just because not all good things are meant to last forever, doesn’t make those situations or people any less impactful on your life. That thought always makes it a little easier—that, and my little shoebox filled with my year in Argentina. It’s like a time capsule, I open it up and laugh, cry, and appreciate all over again, how fortunate I was to have been gifted the love of two incredible people for such a small but significant portion of my life.