Italians give the best goodbyes. During a lunch in Rome over the summer, we sat across from a family of Italians sharing a meal and saying goodbye to each other. The oldest son was clearly leaving home to go somewhere – moving to another city or college perhaps – and I couldn’t take my eyes off the table. Every single person at the table – dad, mom, brother and others – gave him lots of kisses and teary-eyed hugs during their drawn-out goodbyes.
Soon after witnessing this goodbye, I found myself walking down a street in Rome with tears falling down my cheeks, having just said a goodbye of my own.
A goodbye to whom, you’re probably wondering. A long-lost relative I met up with in Italy? A childhood friend? My husband? (no such luck – we’ve been attached at the hip the entirety of this pandemic – love you, if you ever read this!). Nope, none of these people. It was Marcelo, the diminutive Italian waiter from our favorite restaurant in Rome. Over the course of a couple of days and multiple lunches, Marcelo recommended pasta dishes, filled the table with perfect summer tomatoes and mozzarella, and completed our meals with tiny glasses of limoncello.
We chatted about his love of Rome, his coworkers who were more interested in watching women walk by than doing their jobs, and how he was fairing now that tourism was coming back to Rome (better, but it still wasn’t great).
When it came time to leave Rome after a few days, we, of course, had to go back to Marcelo’s restaurant for our last lunch. The food was just as delicious as in the days past. When we said goodbye to Marcelo, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.
As we walked back to the hotel, I pulled my sunglasses down over my eyes, feeling kind of silly and honestly not even realizing why I was crying. Guillermo turned to me and asked if I was crying. I said I was and that I thought I was sad to leave Marcelo, Rome, and “our” restaurant! “Me too!” he exclaimed! Then we laughed (and cried a little bit) about how we were crying over this, and we made our way back to the hotel to finish packing and once again move on.
When I looked back on this moment a couple of weeks later, I finally realized why I was crying. Was I in love with Marcelo, the old Italian waiter? No, definitely not. Was the bucatini alla’amatriciana that good? It probably wasn’t that, either (I mean, it was delicious, but this restaurant was next to the Pantheon and catered exclusively to tourists, so, looking back, it probably wasn’t the finest food in all of Rome).
Planting Roots and Ripping Them Up
So, then, what was it? Why was I sad? It was the roots. There I was, planting roots in yet another place, and then ripping them up right as they were taking hold and giving back something fruitful – another new friendship.
I am so privileged to have gotten to spend this last year as a nomad. From Hawaii to South Lake Tahoe to a road trip through the Southwest, back to Hawaii, to North Carolina, to NY/NJ , to Italy, Germany, Spain, to Santa Fe, and finally again, back to Tahoe. To be able to pack up our stuff, give up our apartment, and be on the road like this has been a life-changing experience.
The good things far outnumbered the bad, but it wasn’t all perfect.
It turns out that one of the most important things I learned about myself during this year is how much I crave and thrive on stability. As much as I love to travel and have my own freedom (a big part of why I reached my Biglaw breaking point – I felt like I had lost all of my freedom), I also need stability and security.
Mostly, I was tired of making new connections and learning to love and grow comfortable in a place, only to have to say goodbye to these people and places over and over again.
Bye to our scuba diving friends, bye to Guillermo’s snowboard instructor, bye to family and friends after short and distanced visits. And, yes, bye to Marcelo.
So, after this long year, I can’t wait to settle down. To plant some roots and let them grow. To not rip them up right when they take hold. And to not have to say so many freakin goodbyes!
Another Way to Live for Biglaw Lawyers
What does all of this have to do with The Unbillable Life? One of my main missions with this blog is to show an alternate version of a good life, especially for Biglaw lawyers who often have a hard time imagining that there’s another way to live that doesn’t involve business casual, constant conference calls, or demanding clients. Biglaw has a very narrow definition of success, and my choices/way of living most definitely stopped fitting into that mold the day I left.
Also, because I’ve shown (mostly on Instagram) all of the amazing experiences I’ve had this year, I felt it was important to talk about some of the low points, too. Not having a home base and moving from Airbnb to Airbnb might look carefree and effortless, but it’s also hard.
Life’s not perfect or automatically easier once you leave Biglaw. With freedom comes other challenges. But whenever I reflect on it, even when I’m not feeling my best, I always know deep down that I made the right choice. This is the life I’m supposed to have and that leaving Biglaw behind was the best thing I could ever have done for myself.