The mother of one my exes once told me that every important decision she ever made, she made out of the love for a man. This statement starkly contrasts everything we’re told as adolescent girls and young professional women: chase your dreams, not the man; build your own success and love will follow; don’t let a man determine where you live and what you pursue; #girlpower, etc. etc.
But this woman, who I have always and will always greatly admire, is incredibly successful. A renowned Bay Area surgeon, mother of two (doctors themselves!), daughter, sister, aunt, dog mom, skier, political advocate, international medical volunteer, photographer, horsewoman. Also, happily married for 30+ years.
She might’ve told me those words so that I might choose her son, and in that, follow him to Chicago where he was attending medical school. But I didn’t choose her son. I didn’t choose Chicago. Instead, I chose a different kind of love. The love I have and the pull I feel for the forests, rivers, and mountains of the Pacific Northwest. And no matter how much I loved or cared for her son, I couldn’t give up wide-open spaces for skyscrapers. I couldn’t trade my mountain biking and skiing friends and family for the bar hopping socialites I’d been exposed to during my Chicago visits. It wasn’t in my DNA. So I chose my own version of love.
Now, six years later, I find myself still, and again, in love—still in love with the Pacific Northwest, and again in love with a different man. “Life’s funny,” he likes to say, in reference to the twists and turns both our lives have made to enable our paths to finally, inevitably, intersect. Our paths were so close for so long—so close that I’d written his phone number on a whiteboard two years before actually shaking his hand. “Why didn’t you call,” he asks.
Then, finally, I found myself sitting with my childhood best friend on the deck of the barn he was calling home. The “barn” is owned by my brother’s in-laws, people I’ve known since the day I was born. I had just returned from a month in Europe with my sister-in-law, the sun was shining, and we were sipping summer cocktails. He drove his red Toyota truck up the drive after a long day’s work. “You must be Laura,” he said. And in that moment, I knew. I knew that by continually choosing love—of people, of places—I had gotten to where I needed to be. Several exploration and adventure-filled days later, we shared our first kiss on that deck under a full moon. Since, he has helped me to expand my list of things I love about the Pacific Northwest to include the ocean and the straits, too. And now, together, we call the barn home.
So with that, I’d like to offer up a different set of advice. One that I’ve tried to follow, and one that I feel has served me well so far: “Make the little decisions with your head, and the big ones with your heart. Do that and you’ll be just fine.” Because, in the end, if we don’t have love, what good is everything else?