How to say goodbye

When I was 15 I signed up for a 6 week biking trip in New England with my best friend who had moved back to Ohio while I stayed in New Jersey. We plotted and saved our money and asked for new ten speeds for our birthdays. One dewy morning we rode our bikes through empty Manhattan streets and boarded a bus with eight other kids our age and a leader who looked like a Hell's Angel. We were barely skilled enough to switch gears and the trip would prove to be both amazing and insane. Paul, the leader, would break his collarbone and refuse to leave causing us to divvy up his possessions adding them to our already overloaded bikes. We climbed mountains on and off the bikes, were constantly lost, talked to our parents once, met hundreds of people, flew down the White Mountains sans helmets, our rear wheels carrying weight that helped us reach speeds faster than some cars. It was terrible, I fell in love, and wonderful, I had my best friend, terrifying and fabulous. At the end of six weeks I was a thin, muscled, oil marked, angry girl.

When I was twenty that same best friend was killed in a car crash. I was already a drunk, cheating on a long distance boyfriend, heart broken and suicidal. I told my mother, "something's wrong" and she sent me to my room. I left and housesat all summer, crying, drinking, floating in a pool, making late night phone calls and in August I left for my planned junior year in Ireland expecting to kill myself instead finding peace, incredible friends, learning from Trinity professors who had actually been in the Easter Rebellion and realizing life was all I had. I spent that summer travelling on a Eurorail Pass with money I made as a movie extra, sleeping on rooftops and in the Olive Groves of Corfu.

Now I am 56 and for the past nearly 20 years I have remained more or less grounded, mothering, wifing, teaching, living in Chicago despite my passion for the ocean, writing books and accepting the life I once took for granted was changed and that was okay. I managed to get back to London once and two years ago took advantage of an offer to fly round trip to Luxembourg and London, staying for just 48 hours, just to feel like I wasn't completely done with adventures.

In two days I will leave for Abu Dhabi to teach an unknown curriculum in a mysterious country to girls of an unknown age and ability.  I need to find a place to live, a way to reach home and try and avoid buying a car.  I have a plane ticket and a hotel assignment and not a clue about anything else except I must not show the bottom of my feet, be drunk in public or disrespect my superiors. Oh, and don't mention politics or religion.

I used to love the feeling of waking up lost, discombobulated and ready to walk outside to be surprised. I have lost much of that and this trip is about finding that girl again, that brave, slightly reckless, open and hopeful girl in this middle-aged woman who is married and feels all sorts of guilt about her parents and son and the cats. But I need to say goodbye for my best friend, my lost sister and myself.


  1. Sorry I didn't know you better when we were in high school together -- wrapped up in my own parameters and very wary. Looking forward to reading about this adventure and proud of you for stepping forward to live it!

    1. Thanks, Caron! We were all a bit wrapped

    2. Go for it, Molly. May the sun always be at your back...and remember, it's just another country, other people, and kids who need you. And the internet HAS made the world much smaller...:) Best of luck, and remember one of my friends' favorite admonishments as you head out the door: "Be reckless. Take chances..." and read Teddy Roosevelt's "man in the ring" speech when things get tough....:) and make sure once you're set up, you have a guest room...


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