Wednesday, January 16, 2013

on being left behind.

{photo by Edwin Navarro; edit & typography by Zachary Smith}

Our friends are moving in May. 

Not all of our friends, of course, but friends we spend a great deal of time with, and after watching two dear friends move away last summer, I'm just not sure how much more I can take. 

Tallahassee, because of its size or its proximity to three fairly large universities, is a transient town. As a child, I didn't realize this. I went to the same school from second until twelfth grade, and my friend group largely stayed the same over the course of my entire childhood existence. I didn't know that people graduate from college and move and get jobs, didn't understand that when you're a grown-up, people go where the money is, or where family is, or where opportunity lives. 

Now, I'm approaching 27, and I've watched as a lot of the people we love up and leave for bigger, better opportunities. It's not selfish of them, by any means. They're doing what they have to do, and I often get to watch with a mixture of pride and happiness and gratitude that they're living their dreams: in Chicago, in Nashville, in Jacksonville, in Athens, in Montgomery. 

Jordan and I are both eldest children. We flew the coop before our siblings did, and we've both been told -- many times -- we'll never be able to understand what it was like for our younger counterparts to be left behind.

The thing is, though, we all get left behind at some point. Of course, our parents are right: We'll never be able to go back and relive the pain and frustration our brother and sister experienced when we left home for the first time. We'll never be able to fully relate to the burden they carried, because we were off carrying burdens of our own: burdens of homesickness and adventure, new friendships and cafeteria food. 

But part of life is accepting what can feel a lot like abandonment -- friends who move, parents who age and leave this life, relationships broken beyond repair. It's all, I imagine, a lot like what our siblings faced when we turned 18. And while I don't envy their place, I do believe they have an advantage Jordan and I didn't have prior to adulthood. They've been left behind, and even if they didn't handle it gracefully the first time, they know what to expect now, and they can face being left again with confidence. 

When my friends leave for their next adventures -- whether it's in a new town or with a new baby -- I don't want to be bitter. I want to handle their departures with grace and happiness, with gratitude for what we had and hope for what we can have in the future.

Charles Schulz once said, “Why can't we get all the people together in the world that we really like and then just stay together? I guess that wouldn't work. Someone would leave. Someone always leaves. Then we would have to say goodbye. I hate goodbyes. I know what I need. I need more hellos.”

I am in desperate need of more hellos. But until the opportunity to meet someone new comes along, I want to be grateful and gracious, even in the goodbyes. I want to bid my friends a hopeful farewell with more smiles and fewer tears, with the understanding that this season, however brief, has been filled with meaningful relationships I know I'll look back on with gratitude. And one day, when it's our turn to again embark on a new adventure, I hope we're given the same grace.

Here's to looking forward.


Anonymous said...

Mature thoughts in trying times. I loved reading this until I got to the last paragraph.
Grace when it's your time should be enjoyed but not expected. Hearts will be torn.

Leslie Lee said...

So... that Schulz quote definitely had me crying at my desk. We're college-town-dwellers, too, and I'm with you - everybody leaving kind of gets old. And it's hard not to get bitter. Thanks for this - reminded me of feelings that I maybe had just pushed off to the side, not dealt with.

Faith said...

I am also a firstborn, so I never quite understood what my siblings experienced after I left for college! We have developed a close circle of friends in Chicago, but I know that some of them will be moving on within the next year or so. I don't want to think about it yet! I can't imagine how bittersweet an experience it will be.

Brittany said...

I know this feeling. And I didn't know it until a couple of years into my college experience, because I'm and oldest child too. But it's one of the hardest things I've had to reconcile, being left behind, even if only for a summer or a few months. You are much better than I am, wishing for grace and all. I just want things to stay the same and for people to never leave in any fashion.

But you're right, I have and will be the one to leave. We will all have our turn, and we'll want our people to let us and love us all the same.

Such wonderful words, as always, Annie.

Sabrina said...

That quote by Schulz....Oh I love it so much. I can't even describe what a wonderful thing it did to my heart.

Ashley said...

Experienced leaving Tallahassee, it was one of the hardest things I have ever done. We were one of those couples who came for further education, but developed some deep relationships while there. Our church family bid us farewell with grace, but I still miss our small group dearly even though many of them are no longer there either. Saying good-bye is hard on both ends when true relationships have been built.

Rachel Reeves said...

It isn't often that I visit a blog and the words I'm reading touch me because I am INSIDE that exact situation, at that EXACT time.

I feel that I am bidding different people farewell that are leaving my life both physically and emotionally, so I was grateful you touched on both. I feel like saying goodbye, especially when you feel somewhat "forgotten" is difficult but the Lord uses it to turn our focus on Him.

Thank you, Annie.
Love you, friend.

Denise K said...

This brought tears to my eyes because I have been experiencing so much of it in the past year or two...just realizing how much shapeshifting happens with relationships and CAN be tough to swallow. Especially when I'm unmarried and childless and so many of my friends have families...relating to each other becomes harder than it ever was when we were college-aged children. But love is supposed to be able to change...or else is won't last.