I am currently soaking up the words of an old book, Gifts from the Sea, which my dear friend, boss, and mentor gave me when I was leaving Egypt. It is written by someone older than me, wiser than me, and beyond my time and language but I love it. I love it because of those very differences from my own life, because it allows me to sit and think of my world from a perspective so much greater than my own. That alone is rare, since often I find myself feeling, especially in this college town, as if I am the most experienced person in the room (often I am not, but it can feel that way sometimes since my experiences are not greater but different). But more than that, it is a book that holds pieces of my mentor and friend. She has underlined things, written in the margins, left markers and coffee stains. The pages are warped from travel and salty air, from sun and sand. It holds a piece of someone I love and all of her wisdom as well.
As a TCK I find that often I have two options when it comes to people I love when I am leaving. I can choose to leave them behind, or I can choose to take them with me. Both options require risk and pain. When I leave people behind I disconnect, and usually this happens even before I leave. I start to build up those walls so that when I leave the pain seems distant. In reality I can't really block off the pain and instead I block off the conclusion, the chance to leave someone behind with the heartbreak that only comes from deep care and the beautiful sharing of that care and heartache. If I choose to take them with me I must also be careful. There is the risk that I will forget to be where I am, that I will try to stay only in that old world and refuse to be in the one where my body actually resides. I can waste away my life staring at computer screens, hoping for the next call, email, text. In that circumstance I build up walls, trying to keep those loved ones in, and instead blocking out the potential for new friendships.
I can understand both sides. I've done both. I sometimes do them simultaneously with different people at different times. I have to remind myself to check in on those I have left behind, and I have to remind myself to step out to those who are in front of me. I remind myself that no man is an island and you don't want to hold anyone captive on your own island you have built.
I think of myself as a ship on the sea. I sail from harbor to harbor. Each harbor leads me to new people who I will eat with, walk with, laugh with. And each time I push off I must navigate choppy waters. I cannot hold all those people from the last harbor on my ship or it will grow heavy and sink. But I cannot dock at a harbor and never leave the boat, for what good would that be, to be at a harbor and never set foot on it?
Sometimes my travels lead me back to old harbors, and while things change there is something special about those places, the people who stayed. Sometimes I go to new harbors and find old friends, the other ships that are navigating the same seas around me. But it is as if every place I go I am given a gift. A place to call home, a guarenteed friend, a memory. I can hold onto these things without my ship sinking. I can read my books, I can visit and step back into a part of that old world I left behind.
We have just left American Thanksgiving and while I am not so accustomed to celebrating the holiday I am so thankful for my many harbors. I am thankful that I have family (though not by blood) in Canada who will gladly let me dock my ship in their harbor. I am glad that a heart friend who just got married has sailed her ship close to mine, and that one of my youth might sail my way soon too. I am glad for the people who hand off old books with wisdom that allow me to carry their thoughts with me here on my journeys. I am glad for my friends who extend friendships to those they don't know simply because we are all sailing rough seas on ships.
Thank you, all you harbors and ships out there who have intersected with mine. I hope we intersect again on the seas of life in the future. I hope my walls are never too high to keep you trapped within or without. May your ship stay light, afloat, and may you find new and old harbors and ships everywhere you go.
How do you deal with leaving old places and coming to new ones?