I have now been in Texas for almost three months and will be leaving this adventure for another in the next few days. I just felt like I have hit my stride. I am comfortable with where I am and what I do. I’ve figured out my living situation and who my friends are. And now, I have to say goodbye. Leaving is never easy, but after moving around job and living locations a few times, I’ve learned some things that make it easier.
Ritual is a way for me and those I am leaving to get closure to the relationship. Realistically, I am not able to keep in touch with each person I leave. For many, this will be the last time we see or talk to each other. For others, the nature of the relationship will change. I find that without some ritual of goodbye, a card, a dinner, or a personal conversation, feelings can be hurt and people can feel cast aside. The nature of being a sister means I will move around a lot. Moving for me does not mean I am unhappy with where I am, like it does for most people. Moving for me just means going to the next thing. I will always keep those I have met in my heart, and they need to know that.
A simple ritual of goodbye can be giving cards or a meaningful trinket. The children I teach in Mexico will each get a handmade friendship bracelet and I will tell them how much they mean to me. I will remember them by a matching bracelet. We will continue to be connected. With my adult students and friends we might go out to dinner to celebrate and exchange phone numbers. Regardless of the specific ritual, the important part is that they will know what impact their life had on mine.
Share My Experiences
Sharing my experiences not only helps others to learn what I am doing and possibly find a replacement, but also helps me to put words to my experience. Finding words to describe my love of a place and for a people helps me to remember and let go. Part of this letting go happens here in my articles and my ability to share my experiences with you. Other times it is in conversations with family and friends.
|Teresa and I enjoying ministry in Texas.|
But sharing my experiences in person with others who might take my place is the most life-giving for me. I love sharing my joy with others. I love introducing others to the people and places who mean so much to me. I love seeing the light in their eyes when they experience something for the first time. I love seeing the wheels turning when something new comes along. This week I have had the privilege to share my experiences with a young woman named Teresa. It has been a joy to get to know her and I enjoy hearing her reflections on things that I experienced for the first time only a couple months ago. Sharing my experience with her has been a wonderful way for me to say goodbye to all that I treasure here.
Another important outlet for sharing my experiences is in journaling and painting. I keep a journal so I can remember what I experienced. I can go back to it and remember how I felt in this new place and how I felt leaving. My paintings express my feelings in a more visual way and allow me to process my experience beyond words.
Planning for the Next
I know it can be dangerous to plan ahead before it is time, but I find that planning for the goodbye, psyching myself up for it, makes the goodbye much easier. Instead of just leaving, I think about how I want to leave. So how do I want to leave the Rio Grande Valley? I would love to be able to leave promising a return, but I cannot. So I have to say goodbye like it is the last time. I want to leave the valley with love. I want the people I have met to know that “because I knew you I have been changed for good” as a song from the musical Wicked says. I want to leave blessing the land and promising my prayers. I want to leave with all the lessons I have learned intact and engraved on my heart.
And after leaving, there is always a new beginning. So how do I want to begin at my next location? It’s never fun to be one place physically and another place mentally. People don’t want to hear you pining for where you wish you could be, but want to hear your stories. Being mentally absent will only hurt me. I want to be fully present where I am, but still remembering how I have changed through the lessons I have learned in the valley. I want to remember where I was and integrate this experience into who I am, but still enter fully into where I will be. Will this be hard? Yes. But with the help of God and my friends, I hope to make it a reality.