Knowing When to Leave

by Sarah Goodfellow on July 14, 2014

In just a few short months, my husband and I have to make a decision that feels wildly impossible to make right now. We have to decide if we are leaving Peru. We still have a year and a half left on our contract, but the time is coming for us to give a verbal commitment of our intention to extend our contract or pack it up and return to the States when our contract ends.

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It’s a deadline and decision that is tearing me up inside. Both options hold hope and both hold sadness. I am already grieving the outcome. We can’t say yes to one without saying no to the other. And I don’t know how to walk away from Peru, but I also don’t know how we can do any longer than 5 years here. My love for Peru and our life here runs deep. We live in the barrio, on a street with no name, in one of the poorest areas of Lima. When I see my kids in the street playing soccer or running around with their neighborhood friends I know that we can’t leave here. When I go to the baby shower of one of the woman in our program I know that we can’t leave here. We have this beautiful, messy life that I wouldn’t change for anything.

Except. Except that I miss my other home. I miss the ease of words just rolling off my tongue whenever I want to communicate. I’m incredibly lonely. And every week it seems that there’s some emergency requiring time or money that we don’t have. We have lived in Peru for 3.5 years and most days we still feel like we’re barely making it. We’re treading water, waiting for a chance to stop fighting to just breathe.

But people tell us, over and over, that moving back to the US and trying to do life there after living abroad will be even harder. I catch glimpses of that when we go back and visit. We don’t fit in there anymore either. We’ve seen and experienced things that our friends there can’t understand. I will be lonely there in a completely different way. I’ll drive weird and call Coke “Coca-Cola” and make a fool of myself in my own culture.

When we moved to Peru it was with an intense conviction that we were doing exactly what we were supposed to be doing. I’ve never felt such peace about a decision. I don’t expect this next decision will bring me much peace. Staying means loneliness, lack of services for a child with learning disorders, marital stress, and more. Leaving means closing the chapter on the most amazing experience our family has ever had. It means saying good-bye to people we love so dearly with little hope of coming back. It means this culture, this country that my kids now identify with will be striped away from them.

So, how do you know when to leave? How do you make that decision? It feels like more weight than I can bear. We are still 1.5 years out from living through whatever decision we make and I’m filled with grief at the thought of experiencing either outcome. And I guess that’s where I land: knowing and accepting that it will be a season of grief whatever we decide. We will walk through it together, as we have done in every other season. And somehow we will make this decision.

If you have left the field, how did you know when to leave?

And if you’re still in the field, do you struggle with knowing when to leave?

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About Sarah Goodfellow

After only having traveled outside of North America once, Sarah and her husband, Blake, decided to move their family of 6 to Lima, Peru in 2011. They work for Krochet Kids International, a NGO that works with highly vulnerable women to empower them to rise above poverty through jobs, education, and mentorship. You can read more about Sarah and her family's journey in Peru at http://www.goodfellowfamily.blogspot.com.

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