aybe it was because Liz was coming on 50 years of age that she felt the need for change. But I didn’t see it coming. We were having drinks in my neighborhood. The summer night was balmy and we enjoyed a cold beer at a small table at a local café. It was a quintessential moment on a brownstone block in Brooklyn.
As we both held our cold glasses of foggy Hefeweizen, Liz laid out her new plans.
“I’m ready to get out of here,” she said. “I’ve had enough. I’m going to move.”
This was the first I heard of any interest in leaving New York.
“It’s either Costa Rica or Portugal. I don’t know which yet.”
It seemed she was serious and I tried to be supportive. But it also appeared she was tossing out the idea of leaving as a solution to something else.
“I’ve been reading about it online,” Liz continued, “There are expat communities all over the world. There’s websites about how to do it and where to go. It’s really a thing.”
A bit older than Liz, I thought back to my own feelings as I approached midlife. It was a milestone with heft and weight. I was introspective. I evaluated myself. I considered what I’d accomplished. I remembered longing for a change, a move, anything dramatic and of substance.
“I just don’t like where this country is going,” she continued. “We have young males with guns killing people at random. The stock market is going up and down like crazy. There’s racial inequality and social unrest. Things are getting bad.”
Liz appeared to be cherry-picking reasons to support her position, making things worse than they were.
“Wherever there are humans, you’re going to have to put up with something.” I pointed out. “No country is without its problems and the U.S. is better than most.”
Liz went quiet, acknowledging the comment was probably true. Then her tone shifted, becoming more reflective.
“Well, frankly, I’m not going anywhere in my job. I thought when I took it I’d have an opportunity to do something big, my last chance in fact. But I realize that’s not going to happen. I have no incentive to work hard, so it’s a good time to leave.”
My hunch was on the mark. Liz’s desire to leave New York was wrapped up in something bigger, something looming for all of us. Growing older and making peace with our lives and our choices.
“What will you do for work?” I asked.
“I’m not sure. Maybe I’ll open an Inn with a small restaurant serving expats, at least until I learn the language. I have to go someplace cheap or I can’t do it.”
A slight breeze reached our corner, the streetlight bathing our faces in a soft glow. Our glasses were now empty and a pause in the conversation gave us both a chance to look up and take in the view around us.
Linden trees hung their low branches into the shadows and neighbors walked their dogs. Couples held hands and spoke to each other softly. The waiter folded chairs and brought them inside.
“Look how beautiful our neighborhood is,” I told Liz. “Other people want to move here and you want to leave.”
Liz nodded. “It is beautiful, I know. Let’s see if I actually go through with leaving.”
I wondered how long her plan would last. The place you will always be, no matter how old you are, is in yourself. It’s a truth as old as time. Moving doesn’t change that. Little does Liz know — yet.
The block grew quiet as night closed in. We hugged and walked off our separate ways. Life will go on just as it has, at least for a while longer.