My biggest fears as far back as I can remember have been settling for less than what I’m made for and being left. They’ve played mercilessly into each other, especially during college when I realized that many of the truths I’d been standing on for so long were misconceptions.
I grew up with friends moving away. There are four specifically that stick out in my mind and they have defined my life more than I thought at the time. I have always held my friends dear and I think God has always used people to talk to me. I was silly enough to think that I could work hard enough to make them come back, but was left disappointed because that’s not how life works. I was always told I cared too much. So I started jumping from one group of friends to another, terrified of being stuck in one place or being left. I started masking the hurt parts and walking away first.
By the time graduation rolled around, I’d already made plans to go far. I couldn’t stand the idea of staying when there were so many other places to be and staying meant everyone would walk out and I’d be left.
Honestly, college came and went without that changing. I still held too tightly to friendships and spent almost every year with a different group of friends. Eventually, I left. Deep down, I thought spending a year with people who all chose to live this radical lifestyle would mean I wouldn’t be left again, but July 30 rolled around and we all went to our different terminals in the Miami airport. Some, I’ve seen since. Most, I haven’t.
Imagine walking back into American life after that experience – constantly being around people for a solid year, only to find yourself in a place where people don’t spend every waking hour with a group of people. People still grow and leave and sometimes that means I get left. I’m still terrified that people will leave. When things get tough or loneliness creeps in, I want to pull out my passport and head for the airport on the first flight to anywhere but where all these people are that carry pieces of my heart because maybe I think better when I’m 30,000 feet up or at least in a place where iPhones don’t work without wifi and most people don’t speak English, but really it’s because if I leave first, I don’t have to be left standing there empty-armed and empty-promised after a tearful goodbye full of “I’ll write” and “we’ll still be friends” (which proves that I don’t always have great faith in others).
But God has been gracious. In my first year home, no one really left. I’ve over-extended myself over and over again to spend quality time with my people because they are just that – my people – and deep down I think we’re hardwired to need others. I also know it’s no coincidence that the entire Sunshine Gang ended up back in Rome or that Drew & Amy haven’t left for Uganda yet or that I finally found friends who measure life in baseball seasons. Out of sheer terror of the “scatter” parts of life, I have hustled to squeeze in every moment I could with these people and I don’t regret it for one second. In the midst of that, I’ve been unlearning what it means to be the girl who leaves first out of fear of being left. I’ve been learning what it looks like to stay, to settle into routines and community and niches, to figure out what it is, exactly, I have to offer to the world around me if I stick around long enough.
I’m not there yet. 2015 has been marked already with people leaving and we’re barely into spring. I know the next nine months are cradling a few heartbreaking goodbyes, no matter the distance or permanence, and I’m still scared, but I don’t regret one single minute spent gathered around a table or going out of the way for a fro-yo run or donning cowboy boots to go out because someone asked three times or even staying way too late in the Valley when I’d rather be in bed already. I am never tired of the number of people I get to walk life with. Never ever. Or any moment I get to spend with them. I’m learning to count those gratitudes first, like taking deep breaths, and live inside the grace and joy in those moments instead of walking away because I want to be the kind of person who just shows up for people, not the girl who leaves.