Turning Points, or “the highway sets the traveler’s stage, all exits look the same; three words that became hard to say – ‘I’ and ‘Love’ and ‘You'”

This morning, I sat in the cafe next to the taxi station with Caity, Avery, Nicole, and Jonathan.  It’s weird.  The past few months have been, in some ways, building up to their final morning in Outat.  And now that it’s here and gone, none of it seems real.  We waited for Caity’s taxi to fill and chit-chatted about some of their goodbyes in their communities, the tears spilt, and the tears that haven’t yet come.  In some ways, it was a conversation about transitions.  We all seemed to be at this crossroads, but where they were going, I couldn’t yet follow.

I actually had a dream a few nights ago about our goodbye.  In the dream, one-by-one, my best friends headed off in their different directions, and as I sat in the cafe, left behind, a million ghosts from my life just seemed to pass by me.  Faded, quick-paced images of family, friends, and loves of years before seemed to suddenly appear in the dank, little cafe, briefly linger, and then were gone.  It was as if everything around me was in warp speed but I remained in slow motion taking it all in.  And then, when I came to, I was just there in the cafe, and everything was in normal speed but nothing was happening.  I just sat and watched and waited for whatever came next.  So, what comes next?

Sometimes, I think we think of “transitions” as “moving cities” or “graduating” or “a new job.”  We regard these moments by the events that characterize them, but in reality, the transitions of our lives are the people who live in those moments.  People enter and exit our lives.  Some stay for a long time.  Some have their time cut short.  Sometimes, we’re the ones doing the entering and exiting.  Other times, the choice isn’t up to us.  And that’s a tricky thing, and it can be misleading.  It can make us callous.  It’s like we get so used to impermanence that we expect it or even begin to demand it; and that’s where it risks becoming a self-fulfilled prophecy.

I think for too long, I’ve relied on that impermanence and even pushed it.  I’ve found false comfort in it, demanded it, and it’s caused me to fabricate this cynical reality of expectations where I was willing to push people away because I assumed they would eventually exit my life anyway, and it was easier for me to be the one to initiate that “exit,” to ensure that I was in charge of my own destiny.   On the one hand, there were, are, always have been people I could always call on if I needed them, people like family, who would always “be there,” like sacred promises.  But that was a world different from the kind of relationships where the consistency is an everyday reality, where the other person was someone you could turn to, well, constantly, and vice versa.  Something settled and intentional.  And my failure to attain that consistency made me lose faith in relationship, even in friendship, altogether.

But nowadays, that just seems too negative, too unfair to the relationships I have had and enjoyed, no matter how long or short-lived, no matter how wonderful or how much of a struggle they may have been. I don’t know if that “consistency” in relationship that I used to long for really exists, but I think living life like it doesn’t is a lie.  Rather than expecting the worst like a cynic or even expecting the best foolishly, we owe it to ourselves and others to simply love the time we have, open to seeking ways to make that time right.  It’s not about  making it last as long as it can, milking every ounce of energy out of those relationships.  It’s just about making it right for everyone.  And I think that looks different for different people, and it’s hard to find that balance, but just a willingness to seek it is what’s important.

Saying goodbye to Caity, Avery, and Nicole wasn’t the heart-breaking moment I feared it would be for that reason.  After Caity left, instead of sitting in the cafe forlorn the way I had in the dream, I helped Avery carry his huge, heavy bags to the bus and saw him off the right way.  I’ll be seeing Nicole off shortly, as well.  None of that is to say that I’m not sad.  I am.  But it’s their time to go.  Soon, it’ll be my time to go too.  And that’s the way of things.  It’s what’s right, and it’s okay.

So I transition now.  Old friends and new will be popping into my life this next month or two, and I’ll be treading carefully remembering what has been before stepping headfirst into what’s to come.

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1 Comment

  1. It’s never too early to think about the Third Goal. Check out Peace Corps Experience: Write & Publish Your Memoir. Oh! If you want a good laugh about what PC service was like in a Spanish-speaking country back in the 1970’s, read South of the Frontera: A Peace Corps Memoir.

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