When We Stay, When We Go

Sarah Ann Noel

In May of 2014, my husband and I made a risky decision. We put our house on the market; we sold more than half of our possessions; we said goodbye to the home we’d built for seven years; and we packed our then 2-year-old and 18-month-old into their car seats and drove across the country.

In the 1,795 miles between Denver and New York City, I had plenty of time to consider our choice a mistake. Time to worry we’d ruined our lives, to fear we’d fail, to ask all sorts of questions I’m sure others had been silently wondering when we made the announcement of our move. What about friendships? Who moves to New York with children? How will we find a new community? Is the city really the best place for a young family?

To be honest, though I tell people I’m not a risk-taker, Trevor and I have lived most of our lives together swinging from one adventure to the next. We’re a bit nomadic and often we let our natural restlessness drive our big decision-making. It’s a pretty exciting way to live, really; but it’s not without its uncertainties. And I think, while we took several days to make that drive, I was worried that we’d really done it this time – made the swooping decision that would break us instead of making a good story.

But big risks always make for big adventures, even if they don’t turn out the way you thought they might. We arrived in the city; plugged right into an amazing community; moved from one neighborhood to another, from a big apartment to a smaller one; learned the trains; saw the sights; traveled up and down the eastern seaboard, simply because we could. We found friendships and pieces of ourselves that never would have been uncovered had we remained in Colorado. And as things settled and we found the rhythm of our new life, I often mused that, had we stayed, had we skipped the risk, I would have spent the rest of my life wondering what we might have missed out on. As it turns out, it would have been quite a lot, and that always made me bask in the benefits of our risk-taking.

Even the biggest adventures don’t always have the endings you might have imagined. After two years in the city, we had the sensation that we were being called away again, even if we weren’t quite ready. This time, it wasn’t the thrill of adventure or our nomadic tendencies pulling; it was instead the need to stay. To settle. To create a life for our little girls, who were nearly 5 and 3 now, about to enter a new phase of childhood. For a couple who had made a life out of being on-the-go, on the hunt for the unknown, to decide to stay instead seemed almost a bigger risk.

Opportunities revealed themselves and then disappeared. We had to act on gut-feeling, guesswork about what to do next. We left. But this time leaving didn’t feel like going; it was staying – we were going back to Colorado, where our lives had begun and we were going to put roots down. While driving those 1,795 miles all over again, I asked new questions: Could I really settle down? Was Colorado the place for us? Would people think we failed at our New York life? Had we? And what would we do next?

I glanced back at the blond heads bobbing around in car seats behind me, and I decided it was a risk worth taking. And thinking about staying was an adventure all over again.

Our lives will be riddled with chances for risk, some big and some small. Almost always, those risks will present themselves as monumental, scary questions. Almost always, the choice to take the chance is never made with total certainty. But it’s best to lean-in, to choose adventure, whether it’s staying or going. It can all be a thrill.

SarahAnnNoel_CroppedSarah Ann Noel married into a family where she became the fourth Sarah Noel, so in the interest of originality, Sarah Ann Noel it shall be.

Sarah is a wife, a mother, and a prodigious over-thinker, fueled by superfluous amounts of caffeine. She likes to color coordinate her books and leave her hair messy. She and her family travel a lot, which Sarah documents through photos and video. Sarah is a freelance writer and contributes regularly to several magazines and online platforms.

She is working on her first book. Read more at sarahannnoel.com.