To say this is a season of change feels like a major understatement. The last 60 or so days I’ve been swept up in a whirlwind of graduating, packing, saying goodbyes, moving across the country, starting a new job, and turning 24. It’s exhausting to even think about. The idea that life can change so quickly has seemed to come as a recurring surprise to me. Even though this has been the overarching goal for over 5 years. It makes me come back to this phrase: “remember when you wanted what you have now”. I used to look toward this moment, this stage of life, during times when school and life was hard. When any challenge would arise in my life I would look to this stage to persist on. This is a marathon not a sprint. I found myself doing that so much though that it started to become more of a destination and achievement. As if I would arrive in this moment and life would be complete and all the challenges in my life would fall by the waist side. I say this with equal parts anxiety and gratitude. Gratitude that I made it to this point, that I achieved these goals. Anxious that I don’t quite know what’s next.
I find that there is a lot of build up for people in this stage of life. Everyone asks about how excited you are about these new opportunities. And while I am deeply excited, I feel like many people forget that there is a lot of grief happening as well. During finals week I wrote impact thank you letters to two professors. I cried writing them, and I cried delivering them. Saying goodbye to people that have spent countless hours investing in my education but also life, is hard. They were just two of the many people I found myself walking away from. The bittersweetness of many lasts and firsts on the horizon. That week I was looking for a mantra to come back to amongst the chaos, and I thought of an old phrase. “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened”. At face value that phrase seems alright. The idea behind the phrase isn't inherently bad, but the execution falls flat on its face. The phrase should be “cry because it’s over AND smile because it happened”. We can and we should do both. Life is not one dimensional. I cry because I went all in. I created a life and a community and cultivated amazing friendships and relationships that I am moving away from. Damn that’s hard. It’s hard to grow where you are planted and then uproot your life to start something new. I can smile because this was the plan all along. I can smile because I have gratitude for all the things that I’m also crying over. What is special is that I know I will go all in here, in this new chapter. I will create a wonderful life wherever I decide to plant myself. But I don’t have to choose between joy and grief. I can choose to live presently within the feelings as the present themselves. Life is not an either/or it is a yes/and. We can’t keep shoulding ourselves. “I should feel this” “I shouldn’t feel that”. It’s not helpful and it’s not kind to do that to ourselves. That type of self talk gets us nowhere.
It’s hard to grow where you are planted and then uproot your life to start something new.
I’ve had to relearn some lessons during these last few weeks. The primary one being that there are no “destinations” in life. It’s easy to fall into that trap with long term goals. Whether it’s marriage or school or travel or fitness. We can arrive at the goals we’ve worked really hard to meet and find ourselves with our hands in the air looking around going “now what?”. Currently, I’m looking around and asking myself that exact question. I don’t think I’ll have the answer for a while either, and I’m working to show myself some grace. For now, I’m going to work on planting some roots, and basking in the joy of accomplishing some pretty intricate goals.
Change is hard. Give yourself the room to grieve, but also lean into the joy. It’s yes/and.