The Ephemeral Fear

of 

Seasonal Friend Loss

Written by Joey Rovinsky

Illustrations by Robert Hune-Kalter

T

he dream job is on the other side of the country. The perfect lifestyle is on another continent. Better health, living, education, and future exist somewhere else. This is true for many people, yet they stay.

They stay because there’s a fear lurking there in the mind. It is the single greatest fear among people who want to move away from home. This fear geographically paralyzes young and old into abandoning their passions and giving up on their dreams. Its the biggest hurdle to all would-be Seasonals.

 

This fear is friends and family. Fear of losing the ones we have. Fear of disappointing them. Every single one of us has dealt with this fear. And for those who made the leap despite this fear, every single one of us has realized the same thing: By leaving, these relationships can become better than they had ever been before.

Every prospective Seasonal gets to the same mental roadblock and I believe it is the hardest to push past. It is the thought that leaving friends and family is a deal breaker no matter how empowering the move or lifestyle change would be. However, something interesting happens to the Seasonal that does get past this moment. Its something that can only be realized in hindsight, a lesson that can only be taught by experience, but I am realizing it and enough people I’ve talked to have felt the same thing, and its time for somebody to tell someone.

 

Here’s me telling you:

The lesson is this, just like “no one is perfect until they are dead,” after leaving, but still visiting regularly, you and your friends become perfect in each others’ minds.

When I left home in Ohio and moved to Alaska in 2013, I left a soccer team I loved playing on, friends I loved going to the bar with, sports teams I could show up and root for, and a go-to local first date itinerary that slayed. 

 

My family went from being an hour or two drive away to a five hour plane ride amid a nine hour travel day. Making the choice to become a Seasonal would mean the occasions I got to see all of these people and to do all my favorite hometown things would disappear and so would my sense of connection to them. Or would they?

Looking back fondly and in a cursory manner, it’s easy to paint that time before traveling as Utopian. Upon painful closer inspection, I remember car troubles, jobs I made quality-of-life concessions for, owing or being owed money by friends for longer than either were comfortable with, incestuous relationships within the group, and the all-too-frequent phenomena where weeks would turn into months and a I would have nothing to show for the passage of time. Not only was I seeing things I didn’t want to see in the people that most mattered to me, but I was seeing those same things, and worse, in myself.

Nowadays, when I go home or when my friends and family visit me, even under close scrutiny, everything is great. I always feel like I didn’t get to see them for long enough, which is always preferred to seeing them for longer than either of us would have liked. We get to catch up on our triumphs and our progress. Our failures and stagnation don’t find a good opportunity to weasel their ways into the conversation. It’s understood that the time is limited so we use it to maximum efficiency. Every day is a highlight reel and when we part, we’re all glad for the time.

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The mental hurdles to finally pulling the ripcord and becoming a Seasonal are innumerable

By leaving, 52 weeks of blurry, mundane familial interaction has been distilled into two separate month-long house call whirlwinds. Those times become two “shoulder seasons” that Seasonals look forward to. A time to remember the past and feel motivated for the future. A real life, biannual reality check.

When I’m not home, I still get and send wistful texts, “you would have scored that goal,” “too bad you’re not here this weekend…” and “I was trying to figure out what this actor’s name was yesterday and it took more than thirty seconds.” I definitely would have scored that goal, its actually probably better I wasn’t there that weekend, and the actor’s name was Ray Winstone, by the way. The love is still there but it’s a trade of quantity for quality.

The mental hurdles to finally pulling the ripcord and becoming a Seasonal are innumerable and have just as many workarounds.

 

Some, like “traveling is expensive,” are easy… no, its not, I actually travel in the winter instead of staying home to save money. Others are complex, like “ophidiophobia”… in the summer, I go where there aren’t snakes, like Alaska or New Zealand. Only in the winter months, when they’re below ground or otherwise hidden from my sight, do I go to “snake country.”

 

But the one counter-argument against a Seasonal lifestyle that is the hardest for people to push past and is the most difficult to address is also one of the most glaringly incorrect ones after making the leap. Leaving your friends and family doesn’t have to be a deal breaker, in fact, it could be considered part of the draw. Instead of seeing your friends as flawed and lovable humans, they can become perfect. And so can you.

 

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