Upon birth, we start our lives by leaving. We take off from the security of our mother’s womb and come into the world. Eventually, we grow and move from the safety and easy innocence of childhood to subsequent life stages.
We say goodbye to our parents and hello to college, create close ties with friends, become independent, grow, and have new experiences. Throughout school, we leave each grade for the next one. We ascend a level, assuming our academics have proven satisfactory, and thus, enter a new realm and environment.
Then, we leave the romance of academia for the “real world,” as they call it. We exit the safety bubble of dorm rooms, cafeteria food, late nights, and no real-world responsibility, heading from a life on campus into finding an apartment, a job, possibly in a whole different city. We say goodbye to some of the friends we made at university, possibly even farewell to a significant love if our new lives take us in different directions.
We are leaving.
Throughout life, we will leave jobs, relationships, friendships, cities, family, and homes. We will stay with one job until enticing challenges or further opportunities present themselves and then leave for that. Only a small number of relationships will last over the duration of a person’s lifetime; most will not. We need different people at varying times and phases of our lives. As desires, life goals, and even personalities change, this often goes hand in hand with a relationship needs shifting as well.
This goes for both romantic and platonic ones. Friendships come into our lives for a reason. A few will remain steadfast over the span of years. Quite a few will not. Again, because of shifting emotional needs, changing values, differing interests, as well as proximity.
And of course, a relationship or friendship concluding does not mean that while it lasted, it wasn’t wonderful, deep, and worthwhile. An ending does not invalidate the rest. Far from it. Endings in life, along with leavings, are a given.
Many of us, though not all, will live in a handful of different cities throughout our lives. We change locations with relationship or job opportunities, or for a sense of new beginnings and adventure. Like dandelion seeds blowing in the wind, if we allow ourselves to be swept up with courage and inspiration, life can take us to so many astounding and character changing places. In such surprising directions, both physically and emotionally. If we are brave and open, attuned to what the universe is offering. We leave our childhood home for adulthood and the world.
Throughout our lives, we will evolve out of certain ways of thinking and into different ones. We adopt new values and let go of prior. We shed some personality traits and grow into new ones. We leave people and things. Values and ideas.
Think back to who you were five, ten, even fifteen years ago. I imagine there are ways of thinking you have since shifted into that previously, you wouldn’t have considered. There are certain foods you now love, which you once hated. There are ways you may act currently which several years ago, you would not have. There are people to whom you are close today, that you wouldn’t have imagined. The list goes on.
This is what it means to be a healthy and flourishing human. Continual growth, changes, evolving, and yes, leavings. Upon ceasing growing and changing, one ceases living.
We step out from the routine of our daily lives to go on vacation, exploring other parts of the world and adventuring. Then, leaving that brief duration of leisure and timelessness for returning to our usual life back home.
The world around us goes through a series of leavings as well, as all of life is a series of comings and goings. Summers leave each year to make way for fall. The leaves drop from the trees, clearing the way for the blustering chill of winter to set in. Beloved pets and animals in our lives will pass away, leaving us. Even the agility and youth of our bodies will fade and goes away.
The sun comes up each day, later leaving us for the magic and quiet of nightfall. We depart our homes in the morning to head out and greet the day. Then, leaving the consciousness of daytime to fall into sleep. And of course, at the conclusion of this wild, precious, one-time deal called life, each of us will leave.
Life, both daily and over the course of years, is a series of leavings.
Leavings fill our hearts with the certainty of worth in what we are saying goodbye to. They remind us how fleeting life is. They emphasize that, no matter how present you are while reveling and relishing in every moment, it still passes quickly. That as much as you might try to reach out and grasp the corner of today’s shirt as it’s passing you by and hold on, your hand will come away empty.
Life is leaving us with every moment that passes.
This is why I both love and loathe goodbyes. I dread them for the loss and pain inevitably entwined with the leaving. And yet, I love how goodbyes often result in a rush of bravery and intense emotion, in beautiful words and heartfelt expressions of what that person or moment meant to you.
In leavings, many of us find the courage to finally tell those who are special to us- the meaning their presence has had in our life.
Why do we not say these things sooner? Fear? Pride? A mixture of the two? And what a shame that is. Because hearing the depth and fullness of what someone feels for you is, without question, one of the most poignant and heart-stirring aspects of living.
In leaving, it’s there we tend to discover in full, what we truly mean to others. And in turn, what they mean to us.
Life, every minute of every day, is a series of leavings. This is both heart wrenching and dazzling.
It’s what makes life so rich. Loss teaches us appreciation, reveling in the moment, how lucky we are, and how much we have. Loss teaches us bravery. And that without darkness, there wouldn’t be light. That without time passing and leavings, we would never know in full, how achingly awe-inspiring and beautiful all of it truly is.