For a lot of people, life doesn’t come with a lot of choices. As I type this, many people are hunched over their computers; their shoulders slumped, all for the great American buck. Every so often, a thought, however fleeting, may breach the recesses of their minds, “should I stay, or should I go?” And almost instantaneously, the thought is smothered by the gravity of responsibility, and poof it’s gone.
The notion of leaving it all behind for a life we’ve read about is an indulgence we’ve all dreamt of. We have the authors we know and love, the Lost Generation, cheap wine in hand, stumbling through the cobbled streets of Europe after the Great War. The Beat Generation meandering through the vast American continent, hitchhiking with strangers, boozing and jazzing their way through life, speaking easy and loving freely.
But what of this generation? Indulge in the moment and awe at the castle of sand before the waves of life flood over it? Or lay a house of bricks, steady and secured, and comfortable and content, and stable. Is this not what the great authors of a time gone by has told us not to do? Is this not what we were meant to do? Meant to live? Meant to be? Are memories made of stagnation or of impulse?
To wander or to stay put and grind it out, most of the time you cant have both. Almost all the time you will have some sort of regret. The answer then is a matter of the heart. Should I stay, or should I go? What will your memories be of?
You will remember the missed train ride from Austria to Hungary and the pilsner you had while you waited. You will remember the street food you tasted in the streets of Bangkok and its people selling you all sorts of gifts. You will remember that one time the bartender asked you where you were from, and you stuttered because in all your traveling and all your soul-searching you’ve realized that you really aren’t from anywhere really. You will remember that one time that one girl from that one city smiled at you and how you felt when you realized you’d never see her again. And you will remember that feeling of loneliness, when in all your travels, you longed for the comfort of home, of a home. And you will make your way back to this imaginary place, where you have decided home is.
And when you get there, you will do all that you can to protect this feeling, this sanctuary that you have created for yourself. And you will do things and stay in jobs and work in companies that were never really meant for you, that isn’t you.
Then one brisk morning, when that train comes to whisk you away to work and back home and to work and back home again, you will remember what memories you have built for yourself. And you hop in, and all around you, people with unknown names and unknown faces and speaking solemn phrases, and all this gets you pensive. You think about the places you’ve gone, the people you’ve met, where they are, and where they’re going. Then you remember the books you’ve read, or at least parts of it, that people have passed onto you and you have passed onto people. And you remember those words “you’ll know when you know,” you murmur them to yourself. Just as that happens, the train screeches to a halt, and you step off, briefcase in hand, a briefcase filled with responsibility, filled with reality. But what of all that traveling, and all that exploration, and all that knowledge and all that is still yet to be? What of Machu Pichu, what of New Zealand, what of the amazon, what of western China? All that seeing all that going? What of all that? What of all the desires of wanderlusting and putting your career on hold, putting responsibility on hold?
So you make your way to the home you’ve built and take a deep breath as you reach for the keys to open the door to that imaginary place, your imaginary place. It’s just as you left it, quiet and calm, and it smells like it did when you left in the morning. And you realize that maybe the only home you’ve ever known was this imaginary place, not of brick and stone, but of experiences, that home is a memory. And you ask yourself once more “should I stay or should I go?”
And the answer is go.