I am in my final semester of college, and last year, I had the chance to study abroad in a country that I’ve been fascinated by since I was 15. I arrived with plans to travel, learn, and do volunteer work. I did NOT go with the idea of romance. Naturally, I ended up meeting someone my first month — a wonderful guy six years older than me named Diego. I would like to clarify that my time abroad did not revolve exclusively around Diego — I made some very dear friends, did well in my classes, and traveled as much as I could afford. But I eventually went home, of course, and Diego and I never discussed attempting anything long-distance. As heartbroken as I was to leave, I comforted myself with the assumption that I would get over my “international fling” as soon as I occupied myself with other things, but the truth is, I still think about Diego every day, and always with sadness.
After months of waiting to “get over it,” I started seeing a therapist, who raised the possibility of going back. Then, my supervisor for my tutoring job discussed teaching English abroad after college, and now I find myself incredibly tempted to do it so I can go back to the country where I studied. My concern is that I want to go for the wrong reasons, and if things didn’t go anywhere with Diego, I would feel like an idiot; I’m terrified of further heartbreak and the humiliation I’d feel for being so naïve as to try to rekindle a youthful passion. On the other hand, I do want to take a couple years to just work and live anyway before tackling grad school. I could really use some impartial counsel from someone whose judgment I admire. Do you think I am being foolish or is there merit in going back to give things a legitimate shot while I’m still able? — Enferma de amor
Yes, it’s true; if you return to Diego’s country to teach English, you do run the risk of heartbreak, but surely a young woman who seems as emotionally intelligent as you do understands that the things in life most worth pursuing usually hold the greatest risk. That’s not to say that everything that’s risky is worth pursuing, but if, when weighing the risk of heartbreak against the risk of always wondering “what if,” the former option is the one you can live with more easily, then in this case, the risk is certainly worth the pursuit. It’s like I said in one of my earliest columns: “If we only pursued relationships that didn’t involve much risk, we’d miss out on some of the richest and most character-enhancing experiences life has to offer.”
Of course, there’s no way I can tell you whether things with Diego will work out, but I can almost guarantee that whether they do or not — whether your time abroad ends in heartbreak or long-lasting love — you will grow and evolve in ways you may not even imagine just yet. Whether you end up with Diego or not in the end, you will leave the experience a more evolved person — one who will go on to love, and be a richer, well-rounded person to be loved in return.
But, let’s be practical here. We are talking about a man it seems you maybe haven’t been in touch with since you last saw him. It’s certainly worth reaching out to him and discussing the option of you returning to his home country. It’s also important to consider whether there’s enough adventure to be had for you there outside any potential relationship with him. You say his country is one you were fascinated by from the age of fifteen on. Does that same fascination still apply, even after spending a semester there? Is there enough interest outside Diego to warrant a return trip back — one that will be much longer this time around? Maybe by making a list of other benefits to be had, you could again avoid making your life there revolve around a man. If you can do that, I feel pretty certain that even if your experience ends it heartbreak it won’t be one you’ll regret. Can you say the same for your other option — the one that leaves you wondering “what if?”
*If you have a relationship/dating question I can help answer, send me your letters at firstname.lastname@example.org.