Changing chapters in my life has forever involved struggle. Tears unwillingly flow as I sit at airport gates, wondering if I should board, knowing that I can choose to not step onto that plane. I desperately call my mother, or the boyfriend that I am leaving behind, to talk me through the process of making the “right” decision. But in the end I always give my ticket to the agent at the gate, walk down the jet way, and find my seat. I stare out the window at the people working below, I muster a half-hearted smile at the person that lodges himself next to me, and I try to let go. Telling myself to let go, though, makes me want to hold on even tighter.
Two years ago I sat in that window seat, clutching to memories of drinking cheap beer at happy hours, scuba diving under tropical waters, and doing “sunset” with friends. I was departing the Hawaiian paradise I was not ready to release, and heading to the typically rainy climate of Eugene, Oregon, to pursue scholarly endeavors.
What a change.
As predicted, I hollowed myself into my institutionalized-esque apartment for the school year. I caught a chronic case of FOMO – Fear Of Missing Out, as one friend explained – and while I forced myself to attend happy hours at a local campus bar, my heart was still sipping Mai Tais under a warm sun.
But then something happened. After spending the intervening summer back in Maui, I learned the value of appreciation. I woke up every morning with an underlying sense of gratitude, no matter what was happening in my life. My boyfriend and I were no longer together, I had to wake up at 4:30 a.m. to start an unpredictable car to get to work, and my impending departure back to Oregon was reliably approaching. But I loved it all.
And I took that gratitude back to the mainland with me. This last year in Eugene my friendships deepened, I looked forward to the indoor happy hours, and I even met a new man (I did not see that one coming, but I never do, until it’s too late).
Soon enough, though, I had to leave. I had to leave the friends, the community, the man. I had to leave it all, again.
Perhaps it is part of getting older, maybe it is realizing that people come in and out of our lives for a reason, or possibly it is noticing that all our adventures build into a web of unexpected appreciation. I know all these things, but I am finally beginning to feel them. I left Eugene with love. There were still tears – by God there were tears – but there was less struggle. There was less resistance. I finally realized the choice of it all. When we leave with love and appreciation, whether it is a place, a person, or even an expectation, we are also able to start a new page with love. No FOMO necessary.
Sometimes years of experience coalesce into a moment of hindsight that establishes a new understanding of our world and a shift in our perspective (such as the above post). But how is it, that after years of growth, it can sometimes be wiped away by one thought. And we so easily fall into our old patterns.
After spending the past weekend in Eugene – attending a wedding, floating the river, drinking microbrews with good friends – I am again resisting my current transition. But, I hope, just knowing that the feelings of love and acceptance are possible will give them the space to willingly return, even if for a moment.