About a year ago, I wrote many dozen letters to all my loved ones in college – it was how I said “goodbye.” I was ready to leave that place, to leave behind the life of a broke, only sort-of happy undergrad and begin the life of a (still-broke) adult: a new place, new people, a new and joyful outlook on what was to come. But when those goodbyes hit, I remembered why I loved those people in the first place, I remembered why I was thankful to be able to have so many goodbyes to say.
I am unable to stay still. I have to constantly be on the move, in a new place, trying new things, exploring places I’ve never explored before. I live in the mountains of Pennsylvania because of one reason: because I followed my heart and went somewhere I had never gone before, signed a contract for a job in a place I had never been. It was the best decision I could have ever made for myself – stepping out of what was comfortable into the unknown. As my year here at this adventure camp in the mountains starts to come to a close, I look forward. While I could have chosen to remain in this beautiful place, I said no. I said no to what has become so familiar and I am currently knee-deep into the uncertainty of what remains ahead. I could go home – but I probably won’t. What I could do, and what I am doing, is rest in that uncertainty, is apply for jobs in a handful of cities I’ve never seen. But what does that mean for me? What does my need to always be somewhere different mean for the people I leave behind?
Goodbyes are hard. I just said some the other day – the tears that fall and the emotions that are felt never really get easier. It’s one of the most difficult things to do, to walk away from a place that your loved ones remain in, to walk in one direction while they walk in another. Sometimes, it seems “easier” to wish you could keep all your friends in your pocket, ready to pull out whenever needed. But what may seem “easier” isn’t always the best.
Every time I say goodbye to someone, I live as a reminder that I am just one girl. That each person I bid adieu to has so many more adventures and so much more growth, beyond the role I served, and may continue to serve, in their life. I’m glad all my loved ones aren’t in my pocket. I’m thankful I’ve said so many goodbyes over the years. The more goodbyes I’ve had to say means I have loved ones all over the world – it means that they aren’t where I want them (i.e. my pocket), but where Jesus wants them, wherever that may be. That when I leave a place I’ve come to adore, a place of community, one full of friends and high school girls and so much joy and laughter, I am going where the Lord calls me next, known or unknown.
How incredible is it that every time you say a goodbye, you get a new hello? That as I move to the next place God leads me, I will meet more people. Hellos will be exchanged and friendships will be born. Some of the people that I look up to and surround myself with today were just strangers to me not long ago, and so I can only imagine what that means for those in the place of my next adventure. A “goodbye” is just a different way of saying “hello.” It’s saying that you will follow your heart and that you trust that the person you are saying “goodbye” to is doing the same. That when the distance between loved ones becomes greater, their impact on the world around them grows too. A goodbye is one of thanksgiving – that you are thankful that they were once your hello, and how lucky are you to have a chance at even more?
Never let the fear of saying goodbye stop you from fighting for a chance at a future hello. Never let the sadness of walking away distract you from what you’re actually doing: walking forward. Never forget that a goodbye isn’t an end, it’s a sign of a different beginning. And no matter what, don’t ever forget to say goodbye – because while goodbyes aren’t final, they mark an irreplaceable moment in your story, one that you will remember forever.