When I was twenty, I made a pros and cons list to decide whether to tell a boy I liked him. Cons: We might lose our friendship. He’ll probably say no. Likely devastation. Pros: Honesty. Maybe he’ll say yes. At least I might stop freaking out about this.

The pros column’s potential for peace of mind won out. I had the talk with Josh, stammering “more…than…friends?” in a snowy Knollcrest East parking lot, shaking but not because of cold. He said no. “For now,” he added gently, infuriatingly, prophetically. 

The cons came truewe lost the friendship, and I was devastated. But I never regretted the decision to be open about my feelings. And six years later we reconnected, he living in Toronto and I in Madison. We started a relationship, unsure what the future might hold. Listening to the pros paid off in the long run.

The pros and cons list has served me well over the years. When my head is a jumble of emotions and reactions and anxiety, a two-sided list with a line down the middle does wonders for organizing my thoughts. Picking a college? Pros and cons. Accepting a job offer? Pros and cons. Breaking up with a significant other? You bet I can distill a human being into a list of desirable and undesirable traits when the need arises. As it happens, the same list that helped me end one relationship led me to realize later that Josh had a lot of those characteristics I’d been looking for and not finding for so long. 

Almost a year in and we’re still going strong, though not without hardship. Tears have been shed and flights have been missed. But when the distance feels especially long, we write each other letters, sometimes in bullet-point form under headings like “Things I love about you.” 

Now, as we look toward the future, I’ve found myself naming pros and cons again in response to the questions arising: Where will we live? Who’s going to move? Who’s going to give up their family, their job, their community? At first I planned to relocate to Toronto (Pros: Josh’s family, Ikea, socialized healthcare. Cons: I get motion sick on the subway and there aren’t good tacos anywhere). But after I cried on his shoulder one night at the thought of leaving my community in Madison, we reconsidered our initial plans.

The nature of Josh’s career means he would have to get re-licensed, or even go back to grad school, in order to practice outside of Ontario. That’s a heavy con for Madison (Pros: Government job benefits, Roommate Night with my best friends, a church that has become home, cheese), especially since any grad school with the right accreditation might be hours away. We’ve even considered going to a “neutral” place in which we’d both be starting over, like Hamilton, or Grand Rapids (Pros: We could raise our kids close to my sister’s kids. Cons: Is it way too early to be thinking about kids?). But would it be silly to choose the option where we both sacrifice our current homes when we could pick one or the other?

A century ago, God called my great-grandfather to be a missionary through a vision of flaming letters over an altar: “INDIA.” A generation later, my grandma and grandpa received their own quieter call to India, separately but on the same day, before they were even engaged. Josh and I have been praying for guidance in our decision for months. God, couldn’t you just give me a vision, a dream, writing on the wall“MADISON” or “TORONTO” or “SUBURB OF ANN ARBOR”?

I tried to make a master list for this decision, compiling a spreadsheet one anxious night with weighted rankings for the good and bad aspects of each city. But I’ve realized that often, a list just helps me justify with data the gut feeling I’m already hoping to act on. 

Maybe, sometimes, to hell with the list. After all, I said “no” the first time Josh asked me to date long distance. The downsides and difficulties I’d considered then were still present when we revisited the subject two years later, but they just didn’t seem to matter as much as they used to. 

Josh and I knew we’d face this hardship, and we trust that an answer will emerge as we continue discussing our future, in person and in letters and in laggy video chats. And really, could any decision be a bad decision? I know that wherever we end up, the biggest pro is that I’ll have Josh there by my side.


  1. Kyric Koning

    This is very sweet. Decisions like these are hard to make. I hope you find your answer, even if it isn’t exactly what your gut is hoping comes true.

  2. Avatar

    You do have a gift of writing. It does run in your family.

  3. Geneva Langeland

    Hey, if “suburb on Ann Arbor” ever rises to the top of the list, maybe you can convince Monica to move back to Michigan, too 😉

  4. Avatar

    Wonderful writing—again. And I’m smiling at the thought of you two together. You’re right—that’s the important part.


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