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The Art of Leaving Well

(written in the waiting...)


Honestly, the title is somewhat of a joke.

If goodbyes are an art, I’m just finger painting;

if there is a secret to leaving well, I am probably the least likely to know it.


When I left for college, I did a crappy job. I did my best to give each person in my close circle an intentional goodbye, but after that I kind of disconnected. My close friends say I did a good job, but I lost friends who would disagree.


I’m trying to do a better job this time around, to be intentional and lean into all the feelings, even if it is oh so uncomfortable. I hate goodbyes. I’m bad at them and I’d prefer not to feel the gross way that leaving makes me. Goodbyes are too final, and an invitation for ugly emotions. That’s most likely why I’m infamous for disconnecting emotionally during times of transition. This year I’m trying my best to leave well, but it’s not that easy. Especially without a firm departure date. We are in a season of pure transition. I’ve said it a plethora of times in the past 6 years, but I’ll say it again;

“I am no good at the in-between”

We are looking forward in anticipation and longing; so excited for our new home, our new country and living out our callings. I am trying to soak up and enjoy the present moment, but being present also means acknowledging ALL of the feelings that live there. In the present lives the sad fact that we are leaving soon and goodbyes are just around the corner.


If I’m being totally transparent, it takes SO much out of me to be able to face those sad feelings and not try to numb or hide them by emotionally unplugging. I think recognizing these tendencies and pushing myself to sit in uncomfortable realities and extending grace to myself when I can’t is a sign I’m growing.


My last year of undergrad I wrote a 60 page paper around some of my research on missionary kids (children of missionaries). One of the challenges I read/wrote about was that of their relationships— they tend to either go too deep too fast or withdraw in effort to make the pain of losing the person worth the investment in them. While I don’t want to claim the hardships of a group to which I don’t belong, I can say that I empathize with their plight.


We don’t have deep roots right now, but it’s hard to plant new ones. This time of transition has left us with somewhat of a lack of deep, consistent community. It’s easy to feel lonely in the in-between. We have trouble getting involved in groups and activities because we can’t make commitments—we still don’t know when we are leaving. We are trying desperately to make new friends, but we don’t have much time to foster new relationships—and it’s hard to get deep enough to sustain closeness upon leaving. This season is full of uncertainty. However, I’m trying to soak in the sweet last drops of the beautiful friendships I do have.


The Office- Season 7 Ep 22. was and is my goodbye ritual. I won’t ruin it for you, but basically it’s perfectly imperfect and sappy in a beautifully comedic way (though, just a warning, it’s not exactly PG). But the idea is this—I say goodbye to each of my people in a special and specific way that represents our friendship and means the most to them. When I left for college I made the mistake of not telling my friends what I was up to, which in turn robbed them of the closure some of them needed. We had great “last days” together, but while I tried my best to interpret what would mean the most to them, I didn’t give them the chance to tell me what they wanted or needed out of a goodbye. This is probably why you shouldn’t get big ideas from secular TV shows…




This time around I wrote a letter, which allowed me the space I needed to process leaving. The letter was an invitation to my dearest people to tell me what they needed, both in regards to leaving meaningfully as well as in our friendship moving forward. This, though painful, opened up the space (for all of us) to grieve meaningfully all that I am leaving when I make this move across the world. I’m not just moving continents, but time is passing, relationships are changing, I’m going to miss birthdays, engagements, marriages, pregnancy announcements, new babies, marriage struggles, tough seasons, and just daily life with the people I love the most. We will probably still be friends when I visit next, it’s not goodbye forever, but the reality is that friendships change and grow. The feelings are sad, but the space is beautiful.


I’m so thankful for friends who are willing to speak up and tell me what they need, who are vulnerable and authentic, who pour into me and put effort into staying connected and sharing life across 8,000 miles, and who give me grace and exercise patience when I fail to meet expectations. (I’m also thankful for friends who sit and watched The Office Season 7 Ep. 22. with me as we pretend we aren’t crying.) I’m so thankful for the many crazy, fun, hilarious, meaningful, and beautiful memories I was able to make the past several months.


The thing about art is that often it’s the artist that decides its meaning— often times its a mess, its a process, it’s a lot of trial and error but it’s beautiful.




To my friends, thank you for creating art with me.

I love you, see you soon.

Jess

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