I don’t like goodbyes. I don’t like change. I told myself I'd wait til the last couple weeks at work start facing the transition.
So here I am. Today is my last day at work.
I’ve been freaking out on the inside and occasionally freaking out on the outside. There’s been this big ol’ bundle of sadness that wells up from the pit of my stomach when I've thought about moving. When I let it, it rose up in my body until it caught in my throat and caused my eyes to leak and my nose to run.
I don’t think I’ll ever get used to transitions. I don’t think I’ll ever like change. I don’t know that goodbyes will ever get easier.
What I do know is that change is inevitable. I know that transitions are part of life, whether I like it or not. I know that there are things we can do to make transitions easier…and apparently ignoring the entire situation isn’t one of those things. So even though it’s tempting to binge watch Netflix and continue denying that change is occurring (I may have had a Netflix tab open at this very moment for that very purpose), I am taking a moment to focus on the things I’m learning about transition.
The “goodbye” matters.
Transitioning doesn’t just involve adjusting to something new; it also involves adjusting from the old.
A few weeks ago a friend was helping me process the move to Cambodia when I realized I really liked Waco. That’s when it hit me: I am going to grieve leaving Waco. It’s not just the transition to Cambodia that will be hard; it’s also the transition from Waco.
I’ve been watching the TV show “White Collar,” and at one point, two of the main characters are moving to another city. Elizabeth and Peter are packing up their house when Elizabeth pauses and comments (I’m paraphrasing), “We have a lot of memories here.” Peter immediately jumps in, “But we’ll make new memories.” The rest of the episode continues like that. Every time one of them mentions how sad it is that they’re leaving, the other pipes up about all the new things they can look forward to. When I watched that, it didn’t seem natural or healthy. Sometimes we need to be intentional about giving myself permission to grieve leaving the life we've built in a place.
Adjusting to Waco involved countless steps outside my comfort zone (new job, new home, new roommates, new church, new friends, etc.). It took a lot of work to build a life here, and it’s sad to leave just as I’m getting established. There’s much to look forward to, yes, but there’s also value in acknowledging that there’s a lot to leave behind.
Happiness isn’t a place.
I have been happier this past year in Waco than I have been in a long time. Not because it’s a magical place (I know that’s your first thought when you hear “Waco”…) and not because it was the easiest place to settle, but because of what I have learned here. I have wrestled through fears and shed many tears, and I have come to have a clearer view of who God is. And the more I know the Lord, the more content I become.
Contentment, I believe, breeds happiness. I have learned to be happy here in Waco, and it was a process; it didn’t instantly appear. I will learn to be happy in Cambodia too, even if it is another long process, and then I will learn to be happy the next place I move, and the next place, and the next place.
I’m not leaving everything.
I happened upon Hebrews 13:5 recently, which reads, “Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for He has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you.’” This reminded me: God’s presence is a big deal.
Out of all the things I value most—my church, friends, family, community—there is not one thing I can take with me. I have nothing…except Jesus. But, Be content!, the author of Hebrews urges, because you have God’s presence.
I’m leaving a lot. But I’m not leaving everything. He promises He will be with me. I will have Jesus, and His presence is enough.
Hope and gratitude change the game.
I can—and will—be sad about all that I am leaving. I will let myself grieve. Yet grief and gratitude are not mutually exclusive. I can be sad to leave new friendships and be grateful for them, too.
Grief with gratitude cultivates hope. (I’m still not really sure how, but if you’ve figured out how this works, let me know.) There is a next step.
All I know is gratitude focuses on the good, and grief acknowledges the sad, and somehow in the end, hope is born.
And hope makes any transition a little bit easier.
Whatever transition you’re facing in life—and we’re all about to be in some transition because we’re about to enter a new year—I pray it’s softened by hope and marked by His presence.