I have always been the girl – woman – who jumps at the chance to travel. I want to go everywhere, experience all of the corners of the world and its people. I want to see things that my mind can lock away and bring forth years later, unbidden, perhaps romanticized, and know that I’ve lived my life to the fullest: loving the people I love, always remaining open to adventures, and peppering my years with the discovery of new places and experiences.
As such, I never thought that I would turn down a trip, regardless of place, regardless of circumstances. And until last Sunday, when my boarding pass was already printed, when my beloved was by my side, when my bag was packed, I never had.
(A word, quickly, about semantics: “boyfriend” is not the correct term for someone so close to my heart. “Beloved” is the closest I can come to an accurate description.)
My beloved and I have been together for about four years, since meeting one night in a coffee shop where we both showed up for a writing class that didn’t happen, and where we spent the next three hours in conversation. I was involved with someone else, and we parted without exchanging contact information, only to run into one another again two weeks later. We started to write together, and through our words and our time, fell in love. Our years have been the best of my life; he is a generous, thoughtful, brilliant man, intelligent and creative, wholly original and utterly fascinating to me.
In our relationship – which is not perfect, but has somehow been just about perfect for us – we have struggled with one main issue, and that’s the idea of making a lasting commitment to one another. It is a confusing thing, since we both feel committed to each other, and live our lives in that way, with respect and dedication. Still, I have a sense that I would do best in my life if I knew that my partner intended to be with me, always.
I struggle with that some, for the idea of a lifelong commitment is one that comes with more than a small dose of insanity, if we are truly honest about the possibilities of the unforeseen. Yet at the end of the day, I want to have the chance to try, in my life, to live out this promise of generosity, saying to another person – if I am so motivated by that person– that I will do everything in my power to create a world in which he has the freedom to evolve into the most fulfilled and expansive version of himself that is possible.
I think to live out that commitment ultimately takes an enormous amount of faith in ourselves. To imagine that I am capable of giving that to someone else, really looking that person in the face and taking responsibility for actions and desires of my own, trusting both of us so completely…it feels almost egotistical.
Yet my beloved has inspired this desire within me, to create space and to hold myself accountable, to be honest even when I’m scared, to place faith in his vision and to tell him of my own. When I look down the road, it is not that I can imagine doing this for the rest of my life; that’s not how I think of it. It is, instead, that I can imagine no end to the drive within me to do this hard and good work, and to celebrate it all with him.
For the last four years, we have lived our life together in this spirit. “What can I do for you?” is a daily question in our household. When it isn’t asked, it isn’t because the spirit is absent, it is because the action has already taken shape; the question was not necessary. We are kind to one another, and respectful, even when we argue or disagree or hit a bump. We are quick to forgive, to make up, to love on each other once again.
And, for the last four years, this is the one struggle we’ve returned to: how to love each other best, and honor each other most, when he feels most free when he is not in a permanent commitment, and when I feel most free when I think of being in one. Neither is right. Neither is wrong. They are both true, and we trust each other to know what is best for ourselves. The conversation is one that we’ve had repeatedly, both trying desperately to find a way around it, wanting most of all to stay together.
We recently decided that we needed to act, out of appreciation for one another, and create an avenue down which we can walk separately. We, together, decided that I would move out of the house that we share, the house that my sweet love owns, before I go to Europe for six weeks. I leave on April 3.
So on Sunday, we stood on the cusp of a long-planned trip with friends to the Virgin Islands. It’s been a cold winter, a wet winter, full of snow that again fell on our house the next day. I wanted with all my heart to go, for one of my favorite things in the world is to see a new place; it is made even better when my beloved is by my side, for then I have the bonus of seeing it through his eyes, too.
We talked about it; the time to depart for the airport came ever closer. We cried, and we held each other, and in the end, he boarded the plane without me. In the days he’s been gone, we have sent emails back and forth, words full of love and longing.
I do not know what would have happened had I gotten on the plane. I regretted the decision to stay home almost as soon as he walked out of the door, or perhaps I regretted it even before that. I felt like the time home alone would give me longer to adjust; I leave for France in less than two weeks.
It has been the hardest week of my life, and I have missed him more than I knew I could miss anyone.
I am always changed by the travel I take. In this week, I have learned that I am also changed by the travel I do not take. And I think I’ll remember this feeling for a very, very long time.