It was mid-February and I was sitting on the kitchen floor, knees pulled up to my chest, forehead on my kneecaps, sobbing my heart out.
“I don’t want to be here anymore,” I whispered in between sobs. In between the pain reverberating through my face like an echo through a canyon, like the beat of a broken heart. Boom. Boom. Boom. boom. boom. boom.
The pain had come accidentally, as it always did. Ever since my root canal three days before, I’d been existing in a diet of pudding and blended soup. Chewing was out of the question. Anytime my recently repaired tooth came in contact with another tooth, the pain came like a gunshot. I’d gasp and close my eyes and try to breathe. Try to still myself. Try not to sit down on the floor and sob my heart out.
But by day three, I was losing the battle. The pain was too much. I dropped to the kitchen floor and cried like my life depended on it.
Later, I would find out that the pain isn’t normal for root canals. Mine had been spectacularly botched. But when I contacted the dentist, she said it’s normal. Normal. Wait a few days. Give it a week. It’ll fade.
And it did. But it’s not normal.
* * * * *
While I was crying on the floor, Chad was on his tablet. Ever the problem-solver, his first thought was to check the change fee on our departure tickets. Could we leave early? After a week in Tbilisi, we’d already both decided it wasn’t our place. The pollution was getting to us. It was tough to find organic produce. Our apartment was significantly shabbier than the Airbnb photos made it look. And now I was crying on the kitchen floor, in significant pain from a bad root canal.
Chad had already decided the pollution was a deal-breaker in his potential quest to hire developers from Tbilisi and so we were just biding our time. Waiting out the three more weeks until our departing flights could whisk us away.
But in that moment, Chad was done waiting. We could leave in about five days for less than $200 in change fees and flight cost difference. Sure, we’d lose three weeks of rent, but our rent wasn’t that expensive to begin with. And most importantly, this had become a health issue. We had no idea if my pain would fade or continue on. We had no idea if the botched root canal posed other health risks for me. And add in the significant pollution risks and the market vendors using expired soviet pesticides on their food…and the cost became quickly and absolutely worth it.
“I don’t want to be here anymore.”
And so we booked new flights.
* * * * *
In 2017, my friend Ali wrote a brilliant blog post about knowing when to cut and run. In it, she talks about the concept of sunk costs.
These are costs, in both time and money, that have already happened and can’t be undone. They’re the boyfriend you invested two years in before realizing he was a commitment-phobe. They’re the job you’ve been pouring your heart into before you realized you aren’t ever going to move up the ladder. They’re the rent we paid and the plane tickets we’d already secured in Georgia that were now completely useless to us.
Our human instincts when we’ve invested time, money, and energy into something are to keep going. To grin and bear it. To get something out of our investment.
But the truth is that that money (or time) isn’t coming back. The choice in these situations is never about getting back your investment. It’s about moving forward in the best way for yourself. Ditching the commitment-phobe and finding someone who can commit. Leaving the job and starting the business you’ve been dreaming about. Paying the change fees and having a more expensive February paying double rent and a lot more travel costs.
* * * * *
I’ve done this once before on the road. Left a place long before my rental period was up. In that case it was because of a terrible roommate situation. A man who laughingly called me an old maid, who flipped out because I used the space heater he and his wife had provided for my stay, who accused me of driving their electricity bill up while he left lights on and music playing in every room of the house all day long.
Eventually, I decided my sanity was more important than the money I’d never get back. I left, and I’ve never once regretted my decision to do so.
* * * * *
And so we zig-zagged our way back to somewhere that felt healthier.
First, Vienna, where I had an appointment with a specialist who confirmed my fears: this was not normal. My root canal needed to be re-done.
Then Croatia, where fresh air and organic produce were easy to come by. Where consults with dental professionals have continued (with a 3D tooth x-ray happening in a couple days to confirm next steps).
In the end, February was an expensive month. Fast movement and double rents, specialist consults and flight change fees ensured that. But the sobbing on kitchen floors part of the program is over. And for me, that was worth every penny.
Every time I write about a place I didn’t love, the hate mail comes rolling in. If you’re feeling outraged, please keep a few things in mind before you leave a comment:
1. We don’t all love the same places (and that’s okay). My experience doesn’t erase yours and yours doesn’t erase mine. Me disliking a place you love isn’t a personal attack on you or your taste.
2. There are lots of complicated reasons a place is the way it is. I don’t always get into those because all I’m doing here is telling you about my personal experience. History texts are a great place to dive in if you want to try and understand where mindsets, patterns, and context come into play.
3. Living like a local is different than a couple-day vacation in old town. Pretty much anywhere can be fun during a whirlwind stay in the coolest part of town without any health scares or grocery store runs or the less sexy parts of living in a place, like laundry and vet visits.
4. Disliking a place isn’t the same as hating its people. Every Georgian person I met was perfectly nice. So leave any comments about me hating people at the door. Thanks.