This is Miss Piggy. We think she’s about ten years old, but we’re not sure. She was already an adult when we found her in 2013, scrounging for scraps in the compost heap behind our house in Birmingham. Once we fed her and got her to trust us, it became clear that she’d been somebody’s house cat. She’d already been spayed, she was terrible at fending for herself in the wild, she ate every meal as if it might be her last, and our vet let us know that she was an actual breed (a Bombay). We posted signs in all the nearby neighborhoods, with all the local veterinarians, and on lost animal forums online, but were unable to locate her owners. Several houses had recently gone back on the market in our neighborhood shortly before Miss Piggy appeared. We believe someone moved away and abandoned her.
Now Lea and I are leaving the country for ten months and can’t take her with us. Leaving Piggy behind is the saddest part of the whole deal.
The good news is that we’ve found friends to take care of her, and we do want her back when we return. It’s hard, though, knowing that she’s going to be unhappy. She doesn’t understand what’s going on, and having been abandoned once before we hope she doesn’t feel like it’s happening all over again. It’s unclear how much animals actually remember of past trauma, but any pet owner will tell you that they do retain something.
We’ve left Piggy’s carers detailed instructions on all her little quirks (how she likes her food, how she likes her litter, etc.). We hope she adjusts quickly to her new situation and doesn’t spend all her hours hiding from her new humans. Most of all, we hope she remembers us when we get back.
With this career break, I admit that a big motivating factor is to leave behind the non-stop, high pressure world of American working culture. There is so much emotional baggage wrapped up in surviving day to day, even for those of us in the “comfortable” middle class, that we desperately want to escape from, and we can’t wait to find out what it’s like to be free from the constant daily nightmare of alarm clocks, crushing commutes, hair-on-fire deadlines, and demanding, demanding, demanding customers. (I know: First World Problems. Send me a meme.)
However, there’s a lot in our lives that we love and it’s hard to let go. For weeks, it’s seemed as if every single day was the last day I was going to see at least one person. Some will be here when we return, but some won’t. We’ve made a lot of friends over the last two years in Atlanta, and we love the city itself.
I haven’t felt this way about every place that I’ve lived. There were some that I couldn’t wait to leave. Here, though, Lea and I feel that we’ve finally found our place. For me, there are people here I can hang with, game with, go to movies with, make music with. Here I can go to DragonCon every single year and not have to pay $300 per night for a hotel room! (Incidentally, we’re leaving before the Con and they’ve booked Peter Capaldi as a guest. AAARGH!) I know, more First World Problems. Sue me.
So, if Atlanta’s so great, why not just stay and find new jobs? Because now is the time. Because we’re not getting younger or healthier, and if we wait too long to live what we dream then it will only be a regret instead of an actuality.
Believe me, once we set all the gears moving to get us out of the country, we discovered that the pressure not to go is enormous, from society in general and our own inner expectations. We’re both overproductive people, so we feel like we’re the kid who makes all A’s who suddenly wants to drop out of school.
Funny story: I was that kid, and I did that too. In 1993 I dropped out grad school. I wasn’t prepared for the emotional fallout of ditching the path I was on and forging something new, but in retrospect it was one of the best decisions I ever made, and maybe the first real one I ever made for myself.
Here I am, twenty-five years later, about to do it again. This time I’ve got my game face on, I’ve got my partner in crime and love of my life with me, and we’ve got a battle plan for what comes next.
But we’re really going to miss Miss Piggy.