Caroline had always been a risk-taker who never played it safe. She had an adventurous spirit that never rested and a heart that beat for the less fortunate. From the time she was young, Caroline had big dreams of changing the world through philanthropy. Her latest adventure was no different, and she was on the cusp of fulfilling her vision.
All Caroline could think about was heading to Uganda, where she would work for an established non-profit organization that brought education to disadvantaged rural communities. Her plan couldn't be further from those of Jack, her boyfriend of two years. Jack was content in his stable occupation, living in their suburban home, and having a routine. Caroline and Jack knew that they did not have many things in common, but their love for each other was genuine and felt entirely natural.
On a summer night, Caroline was standing outside of her car when Jack walked up to her. His eyes glimmered with love as he asked her to come on a picnic with him. She smiled and accepted his proposal. Jack had spread a blanket on a grassy hillside, and they were admiring the striking sky as they ate sandwiches.
“Caroline, I need to talk to you about something important," Jack said before nervously grasping her hand. Caroline could sense that Jack was looking troubled, but she said nothing, giving him time to gather his thoughts.
"I’m excited about your new opportunity in Uganda, and I fully support your dream. It's admirable that you’re striving to change the world by offering your time there. But…” he hesitated, "what about us?"
Caroline stared at Jack, stupefied. What did he mean? "What do you mean, what about us?"
"I love you more than anything in this world. I do not want to hold you back, but I cannot help being afraid that our relationship will be over when you leave. I`m afraid that you’re chasing your destiny, and I’m not sure if I can keep up," he said truthfully, biting his lower lip.
Caroline hands fell to her lap, and she looked at him in confusion, "But, Jack, we'll be back together soon. It's only for a year."
"I know, I know. But I’m not sure if you will be the same when you get back. What if your time there changes you, and we end up apart anyway?"
Caroline sensed the fragility of their relationship and her desire to take the opportunity. She was in love with Jack, but it didn't feel like love should feel. She hesitated, considering Jack's words.
The next few days were a struggle for Caroline. She thought about Jack all the time, and the conflicting emotions she felt were confusing her. Caroline had always believed in love and that, if two people loved each other enough, they could overcome any situation. But as strong as their love was, was it enough to survive this challenge?
Caroline kept thinking about Jack's reaction, and she gradually accepted that his fear wasn't unreasonable. She packed her bags and traveled to Uganda with uncertainty about what this journey would bring.
Days went by as Caroline settled into the unfamiliar terrain. She felt deeply saddened about being away from Jack, but her work had her mind engaged always. She spoke with the locals, teaching English, Mathematics, and Science. She taught the children full of energy and joy, and Caroline began to settle into a life that felt satisfying.
But the longer she was away, the more Caroline comprehended that she was neglecting her fundamental desires for the life she wanted. While she was in Uganda, Jack saw his life slide downhill. He became practically a machine and seldom showed any emotions. He managed to keep his life together, but Jack's routine days felt meaningless without Caroline.
Months went by, and communication began to get less frequent. Sometimes Caroline would go days without a word from Jack, while other times messages from him would pop up at random hours of the day and night. Caroline began to sense that Jack was emotionally distant. She wondered if Jack had moved on, and the idea made her sad.
Now Caroline had to decide. She couldn't come to terms with the idea of dropping her yearning for seeing the world and making a difference, while she also couldn't bear losing the man she loved.
As Caroline's time in Uganda came closer to an end, she knew that it was time to make a choice. Jack's message came on a quiet, lonely night when she was alone with her thoughts.
The text message read:
"What you're doing in Uganda is incredible, and I`m grateful for all the good you're doing in the world. I’m still here, waiting, loving you the way I always have. When you come home, I'll be at the airport waiting for you."
Caroline spent hours thinking about what Jack had said. She eventually realized that she was deluding herself into thinking that the only path to a fulfilling life was through philanthropy in a faraway land. Caroline typed back her response.
"I am coming home. I will be there soon. We have to make work what we have."
Caroline's emotions were so mixed up that she didn't know what she wanted. All she knew was that, whatever the outcome, the point was to have a real shot. Jack met her at the airport, and Caroline was ready to explore life's unchartered paths with him like they always had.