leave. to go away from. to allow to remain.
it’s fascinating to consider this double meaning (and no fun to live it out). of going away from things, but also allowing things to remain.
recently, while I have been physically leaving so many faces and community behing, this made me hope that I am leaving their impact and friendship in my story, letting it fully sink in, being grateful for it.
it was a season of constant connection. what other time in your life do you live on a hall with twenty some other girls from various states, with majors and personalities equally diverse, yet bonded by the experience of all residing together? where you can walk two minutes and find all of your friends and even acquaintances? where you can at least recgonize a large majority of the faces you pass, smiles are the common greeting, and every different activity + group you are part of all meets and diverges from the same location?
it both makes you really, really good at building connections with others and also really, really terrible about actually working to seek others out. you leave college and suddenly the idea of space that seemed foreign is a reality. you have to actually schedule to go places with friends, you’ve lost your instant carpool to go places, you find yourself walking through so many aspects of daily life alone. it can be quite jarring and kind of the worst.
there is something so very strange and against our nature about leaving places where we have invested so deeply. over those final days, we raced down back roads in search of those ever illusive golden moments. of community. of stories told for years to come. of the sing-a-longs and crazy past midnight schemes while our hopes and dreams violently pounded against our chests. the walls of our hearts could barely contain all that was happening in those last days.
when routines and rhythms are upset, we feel off-balance. like everything in the melody is dissonant. and while I know better, I know to believe that there are far better things ahead and His past faithfulness demands my present trust, that there is still beauty and things worth fighting for – defining that is the hardest part to reach. and it doesn’t make it any easier to let go.
one of the weirdest contradictions about what I have learned in the past year is that I know to hold loosely + love deeply, yet at the same time, I’ve also clenched my fists tight. a gut reaction to the pain of ripping open. and I keep thinking I’ve finally got it. but then it pulls tight again, and every chord within resonates with the bittersweet notes of goodbye.
everything I could manage, I tried to pour into this space, the cinder block halls, the bustling couches by the coffee shop, the letters mailed, the ministries driven to, every last interaction. I tried to pour it all out with no regrets.
letting go of the college community was especially hard, because it took me until senior year to find out the magical fact that I am an extrovert. my friends even joked that the student center building was my home, because I was literally always there. (I mean, it had food, mail, friends, and the coffee shop – it’s an extrovert’s dream). and this extrovert thrived on the constant connection. plus, these people had surrounded me through the worst and best days of my life.
everything about my life was so singularly defined by one place, one set of people. the patterns of life in that community, though they may shift each year, generally hold tried and true.
you know what to expect. where to push yourself. what to do with your anxious heart when it all gets overwhelmed.
you know the pathways to the rooms where you can cry your eyes out past midnight, to the campus coffee shop that supported your Gilmore Girls level obsession with coffee and the joy of interacting with others.
you know what those in charge place on you, the goals for your future that they hold, the general direction you are following.
while you may get a little bewildered and confused along the way, there is a comforting aspect of forward motion. and you’re all getting there together.
in a way, it is the most lovely image of our Christian life, all striving together until we reach where we belong. and then it hurts even further, sinks in a little deeper, because it is no more.
it’s no secret that in any season, community is one of the most important yet also the hardest things to find and maintain. and I honestly don’t have any good answers right now.
but I do know that we can leave well. and that it matters so very much that we show up. and keep showing up everyday. even when it feels empty, overwhelming, exhausting. because people need other people.
you can express your gratitude to the people who are part of your life. thank them for the nights they reminded you of hope + purpose and helped you hold on to another sunrise coming. thank them for not abandoning you at your worst and still talking to you the next day. thank them for the conversations that changed you, even if they didn’t realize it. thank them for being present.
you can take that extra five minutes to talk to someone you pass by everyday. write them a card (because honestly no one talks about it, but everyone loves getting mail. it’s a rare treasure these days). talk about ways to connect with them after you both leave. ways to message, facetime, meet up.
but it’s important that you hold any expectations of what it will be like loosely. because you are all going through massive changes.
you can enjoy every moment and interaction with them. tell stories of the old times. when the song hits that reminds you of them, when the memory pops up, send them a quick “thinking of you.” tell them you’re praying for them about whatever big life thing they are currently facing.
you learn that you can love from a distance. that everything has a season, and while the season of closeness may have ended, there are still more layers to the friendships and new relationships to build.
it may feel weird, the ease of conversation may change. the slight adjustments in dynamics due to new locations + goals + transitions in everyone’s life may be one of the most difficult things to comprehend.
it may require constantly reminding yourself that there is One constantly bringing all of our smaller stories into one great one. And He is not finished with yours or your friends, He is still faithful, still working great things in and through you + them, even when you can’t see it.
it may cause more than a few tears and rough moments. but it’s okay to miss the faces of the people you love. to miss the spaces you went together, the saturday coffee shop brunches over piles of books. it’s okay to feel a little lost with all the changes. to wonder where your people are and to get that now familiar ache when the images flash past in your mind.
and finally, it’s important to keep looking for those around you to invest in. it’s no accident you were placed where you are in this season now, love it or hate it. you are meant to be there. the people around you need all that you have to offer. that may mean letting go a bit of the space reserved in your heart for those friends from before. not as a way of forgetting them, but as a way of taking that same level of love and intentionality and using it. because the people around you also need it. and you need them.
here’s to learning how to support friend’s new dreams, how to love from a distance, how to let go a little and ease into this new phase with more space.
here’s to the friendships and community that has forever impacted you, and to all the new relationships that will continue to enter your life in every season.
here’s to loving well no matter what, to telling people how much they matter to you.
here’s to remembering that people need other people. and all the effort is worth it.
here’s to leaving but not for a minute forgetting all they mean to your heart,
title inspiration by the head and the heart | rivers & roads
featured image by priscilla du preez | via unsplash