Wednesday, February 26, 2014

a farewell.

I just sent an email to the members of my book club, bowing out and saying goodbye. And because I am nostalgic and not at all pithy -- and due, in part, I'm sure, to the rain outside -- it felt like a longer farewell was in order. 


When you move 45 minutes up the road, it's hard to draw boundary lines on where exactly your heart should call home. After all, Jordan still commutes across the state line to Tallahassee every day. It's hard to fully close the door on that chapter of life when it remains such a big part of our lives. 

And yet, we both have Georgia driver's licenses now. We're officially Georgia residents, and we're bound and determined to give this tiny town all we've got. It's 45 minutes up the road, but I know me, and I know I can't put feet in both places. I am a girl who commits, wholeheartedly, and so, I am committing to Thomasville. I buy groceries at the little Publix, and I've moved my prescriptions to a nearby pharmacy. I walk to work, and we've spent the last three Sundays visiting churches and testing the waters. (Our church hunt is a post for another day, I think.)

We are trying to call Thomasville home. And so, this morning, when a Tallahassee friend emailed to gently remind me about the book club I started six years ago this month, I realized it was time to say goodbye. 

Six years ago, I was newly married and trying to find my grown-up place in my hometown. We lived in a 650-square-foot apartment, and Jordan went to law school while my tiny journalism major salary bought our groceries and paid our bills. I needed friends. I'm an introvert, but I crave meaningful relationships, and with Jordan in law school every day and night, I needed an outlet. 

A girl I knew through work started asking me out to lunch. (Friend-making really is a lot like dating, when you think about it.) She was smart and outgoing and about to marry her best friend, and as it turns out, we had a lot in common. We hosted a dinner party together, and before I knew it, I was making new year's resolutions and asking her if she thought a book club might be fun. 

In what I used to think was a rare act of bravery, I hosted the first meeting of book club at our tiny apartment in January of 2009. Our transient Tallahassee town meant a lot of members would come and go in a span of six years, but we met every month, regardless of numbers. We read fiction and nonfiction, classics and New York Times bestsellers. Some of our members got married, had babies. We saw each other through a lot of heartbreak, and a lot of joy. I remember one particular meeting, I came home, and I told Jordan: Book club is what church should look like. I still believe that. 

A lot happens in six years of marriage, so my book club friends saw me through a lot of life struggles and changes. It's hard to believe that this morning, I'm writing this post from behind the register of a bookstore I used to love. Book club, I think, taught me to come out of myself, to try new things, to be brave. By launching that very first meeting back in 2009, I grew up and into myself. I've always been confident, more bold, I think, than my outward facade suggests. Book club brought that out, in part because it was successful. It was my new year's resolution that stuck. Book club showed me what goal setting makes possible, and now? Well, now I own the bookstore I used to love. 

Book club gave me the confidence to step out of my shell and to try new things. Book club taught me to take risks, because the risk of starting a book club with strangers? It paid off. 

So many dear friends moved away last year, and the year before that. Book club became almost unrecognizable, but new friendly faces made it possible to keep going. (Isn't that always the way?) 

And I guess I could drive 45 minutes up the road to participate in the club I started. But it feels like a new chapter. It feels like time to say goodbye. And the rain outside makes me want to cry about it, because I can't adequately express, even with the words I love so much, how meaningful, how special book club was to me. I'm confident there will be other book clubs. I've been bitten by the book club bug, and I know how good it can be. I know me, and I know soon, I'll need to plant my own kind of roots here. I'll need to host dinner parties and walk to friend's houses and read books with new-to-love people. In truth, Jordan and I have already started to do those things. I'm proud of us for that. 

But I also know there won't be another book club like this one, because there won't be a season of life like this one. Jordan and I spent the first years of our marriage forging a place in my hometown. We couldn't have asked for a better start to our adventure together. There were small groups and dinner parties and graduations and babies. There were church hurts and struggles and triumphs. There were kindred spirits and hurt people who hurt people. There were tiny apartments and gorgeous wood floors and game nights and Oscar parties. There were so many firsts and a few lasts, and my heart could break from the goodness of it all. 

My book club played a huge role in our Tallahassee season of life. I'll never forget it, and I'll never quit telling people how good gathering together can be, how vital books and discourse and meaningful questions and answers are for this life.

It's time for me to move on, and it's time for book club to continue on, too. I hope my friends will continue to meet, to read, to laugh. Our book club was unique, I think, because it fell somewhere on the spectrum between boozy and intellectual. The bookstore here hosts a lot of different book clubs, and so many of them are either/or. They either need their own wine coolers or the name of their book club is something smart-sounding that I can't pronounce. Our book club was neither of those things, probably because so many of us fell on different places on that spectrum. Left to my own devices, I'd probably have been a book club rule follower, making sure everyone really read before they could participate in discussion. (I know me; the inclination is there.) But other girls just loved getting together; reading was secondary. And I loved that, because it made me better. People who are different from us do that, if we let them. 

My Monday nights for the next few months are, for the first time in six years, completely blank. They're an empty slate, and that makes me excited. It also makes me want to puke. 

So much of life is figuring out when to stay and when to go. I know it's the right time for me to say goodbye. That doesn't, of course, make it easy. Nothing hard or good or right ever really is. 


jenna said...

As always, you capture the essence of your emotions so beautifully… and I can identify as some of those thoughts/decisions/emotions translate into my own set of circumstances.

Najee said...

I like how you said that friend-making is sort of like dating.

Thanks for putting that to words.

RA said...

Oof, saying goodbye to a group like that is so tough. But I think you are being wise in knowing when a chapter ends and another begins. Do you think you'll start or join a book club in your new town?