At the airport ticket counter in Athens today, a sweetheart of an agent offered me a one thousand dollar voucher per ticket to change flights. Her cheeks stretched into a giant, forced smile that I could only interpret as an attempt to hide the "please, please, please, TAKE IT!" that was going on in her brain. I briefly retreated to the spot behind my own glassy eyes to take a climb through my decision tree. For a moment I considered how lovely it would be to stay another day, swing by the Acropolis, have a coffee with a cousin or two, and get my next trip fully paid for by the same overzealous airline that has overbooked every single flight I have ever flown with them. I was brought back to the present having heard a loud yelp after my six year old's fist connected with my nine year old's shoulder causing the rapid cascade of internal calculations that let me to say, "thanks, but no thanks" to the generous offer.
That, and I really miss my family.
I now find myself in the terminal waiting to board with an opportunity to reflect on the past two and a half months here, feeling the bittersweet twinge that comes with leaving a place I love, mixed with the excitement of a reunion with my husband and the rest of my family. I have been swimming in this flavor of emotional soup ever since my husband was offered a job in Thessaloniki a little over two years ago.
The time I spent in Thessaloniki this summer sweetened the pot even further. Thessaloniki is a city of contrasts; mountain and sea, modern and ancient, and a multicultural influence that is evident in every place you look from its architecture to its food.
Chicago is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own vibrant character, hugged together in the broad-shouldered embrace of the Illinois highway system. Somehow, despite Chicago's relative newness by comparison, the two 'second cities' feel kind of similar.
Both are manageable and easily navigable because of their location on the water. Busy, but not as busy as Athens or New York. Foodie cities. I suppose I could list a couple more if I stretched a bit...
I took advantage of the opportunity to live in an apartment in the city center, and my kids took the bus to summer camp every day. It was like a truncated version of the daily routine I would have if I lived there. It wasn't impossible. Little hiccups. Illness and the like. Of course, I never had to visit the ΔΕΗ or the bank during that time, so perhaps I'm jumping the gun.
One thing though was conspicuously absent. My family. Mom, dad, two brothers and their wives. And now one of them has a baby. My husband and I also have many great friends. The idea of leaving everyone for a brand new city to which I have very few ties gives me pause. We have built a lovely life in Chicago, which makes the decision to start over pretty difficult.
But I really like it here.
I think about how easy it was for me to write here in Greece. How my writing has an optimistic character that is challenging to manifest back home in the dismal grey of our never-ending winters. How hard it is for my husband to work excruciating hours at the hospital, and how much his quality of life would improve if he were to take this job. How my children are burned out and glued to technology when they aren't being shuttled to their myriad of 'absolutely necessary' activities and leadership opportunities that may eventually keep them from wearing the pair of golden shackles that come with every student loan over fifteen thousand dollars. So many thoughts.
So what am I willing to leave behind? The endless sea of corn fields and grain that surrounds us for five hundred miles in every direction? I prefer the watery blue. A mountain of crippling debt? Mental health insurance riders? Disney plus? The list of things I have no problem leaving behind is long.
But the family? Not so fast.
"They'll come and visit!" you say. Yes, they will. And I will visit too. Quality time. Add it all up and it may make a couple of weeks out of the fifty two. How often do I see them at home you may ask? I whole lot.
This is my one question left with no answer. My family is one of the reasons why I don't have a four thousand dollar credit with my airline. And as I watch my kids now comfortably snoozing on the plane, I kinda wish I had just bitten the bullet and done it. I'm afraid I may look back and feel the same way about moving ten years from now if I don't do it. Regret is a sneaky little weasel.
Either way, my husband and I have given ourselves until December to make a decision. After that, whatever it is, there will be no looking back. At least until retirement...
Written on August 12, 2022