Well, How Did I Get Here?
Looking back, the fact that I grew up as a poor kid in a tiny, rural town (more of a wide spot in the road, really) was probably the single biggest motivator in my life. It gave me an unquenchable desire to see other places and (because I had so little to lose) complete permission to take chances.
Sometimes crazy chances – like starting a new life in Europe at forty-mumble years old.
Welcome to our new life.
So here I am, typing away from my apartment in Lisbon, Portugal. Along with my husband and our two dogs, I made the Big Move in December 2018. We left our friends and family, quit our jobs, sold our house and car, and got rid of nearly every earthly possession.
We packed what was left into 14 suitcases and crossed the ocean. For good.
Without sarcasm, I can say that the beautiful, adventurous life I dreamed of as a child is now a reality. Most days, I’m still amazed. That skinny, awkward, small-town girl – she made it? I want to pinch myself so I know it’s real.
But let me be clear. In a world brimming with Instagrammed perfection, this was not a “follow your bliss” snap decision. It took a ton of research, planning, and gritty resolve. The bureaucracy alone – both Portuguese and American – has, many times, made me feel like I’m wading through knee-deep peanut butter. And even though we planned the Big Move for more than two years, we still made a few mistakes.
For every mistake, however, we’ve done many more things right. We stuck to our vision and put in the work, even when the Big Move felt stupidly far off. You’d be surprised how quickly that departure date comes up on you when you’re trying to figure out the best way to transport a 15-year-old dog across the Atlantic (hint: I got seasick).
Perfection is not needed.
The best thing we did, though, was to go ahead with our plan even though the timing wasn’t perfect. I mean, there was never going to be a perfect time to completely upend my life, so we decided that, instead of perfection, we’d be just fine with not-the-worst timing.
This has become a recurring theme in my new life, by the way: Perfection is not needed. Whether I’m repainting our apartment or feeling comfortable sunning myself on a beach full of Portuguese beauties, it’s true. Perfection is not needed. Not for me, and not for anyone else.
So we let go of perfection and aimed for happy progress. But what if we failed? This is where growing up as a poor kid actually helped me feel secure and safe in the midst of so much change.
What if we fail?
Mike and I had built a comfortable existence in the States. My life – stable, if not a bit predictable – was already so much better than my early years that moving to Lisbon would be pure gravy. So I ran through every worst-case scenario I could think of: If we failed in every way possible, if we were booted out of Portugal and came running back to Boston, to cubicles and morning commutes and all the rest, would that be okay with both of us? Yes, it would. Ideal? No. But perfectly okay.
This meant we had permission to fail. And that, my friends, is a truly powerful feeling. If I could tolerate failure – however I imagined it – then it had no power over me. We planned the Big Move based on desire, not fear. Running to something good, rather than away from something bad. It was liberating.