When I left Florida 8 months ago I was a trainwreck. Tears fell from my eyes and I couldn’t call home for weeks because I’d start balling my eyes out again. During those first few weeks on the road I wondered if I had made the right decision. I was wondering if leaving my family, friends, the place I called home for 25 years, everything I knew for a year on the road was the right decision. I got to see my parents again for a quick ski trip in North Carolina a few weeks later and at the end of the trip the water works started again. Leaving sucked.
Over the last 8 months I’ve had to do a lot of leaving and in some ways it’s gotten easier. I’ve grown accustomed to it and while my gut still churns when I leave certain places and people, I knew the ultimate test would be when I visited Florida again.
It was a quick visit because I was flying over the state from Puerto Rico back to Montana. So a visit made sense and my mom made sure I knew that. She can be very persuasive.
Catching up with family and seeing Max, my 14 year old dog, again was awesome. It was a reprieve from this yearlong journey, but I found my stomach in knots as I said my see ya laters* to my cousins, baby cousins, aunt, uncle, and friends I haven’t seen in what seemed like forever.
You’d think that after leaving so many places and so many people this year that I’d be a boss at leaving. But I’m not. I lose my shit 9 times out of 10 in some way shape or form when I have to leave. My stomach turns to knots, I go silent, and sometimes I even cry.
As I gave my dad one last hug for a while on his way out the door for work my eyes welled up with tears just as they had 8 months ago and the tears fell like rain drops as I hugged Max for what could be the last time. My mom couldn’t hold it together as she saw me breaking down and we cried together as we hugged it out before she drove Adam and me to the airport. As I was walking out the door my mom said this phrase for the third time this year.
Leaving wouldn’t hurt like this if we didn’t love each other so much. And it’s true. When it hurts to leave it means I’ve loved and enjoyed every minute of where I was and who I was with and I don’t want it to end. It means I even loved the difficult moments that we often wished had never happened. It means that place in time and who I was with will always have a place in my heart. It’s exactly where I was meant to be and with the people I was meant to be with.
Leaving is still hard and I think that’s a good thing. I’m grateful that I’ve learned how to process and channel my feelings when I’m leaving, but I’ve learned to become grateful that leaving hurts.
When my stomach turns into a big knot I remember that time I chased Max into the ocean, he stopped on a dime, and I had to swan dive over him into the ocean so I didn’t mow him down (I didn’t plan on swimming that day). Getting hailed on during a hike totally sucks, but I wouldn’t have wanted that hike to be any different in Glacier National Park. Those big smiles on my baby cousins faces when we played airplane will be engrained in my memory forever. I never wanted that drive home with the windows down after the Magic game listening to New Found Glory to end knowing my best friend would be boarding an airplane to his new home the next day and I always nurse that last bit of whiskey to keep talking with my dad on the patio.
If leaving were always easy we’d have no community in our lives. We wouldn’t feel known and we wouldn’t know what it’s like to enjoy life with others by our side.
Leaving probably won’t ever get easier. 8 months ago I naively hoped it would. And I’m glad it hasn’t. I’ll gladly take being a blubbery mess whether I show it or not over being glad to leave any day; leaving without a community or fond memories to look back on or look forward to making new memories with the people I enjoy spending time with.
And I hope you feel the same.
*I never say goodbye, only see ya later