When I graduated from college, there were people who said things that hurt me so.
They never intended to prick me. Their hope was never to harm me with their stacking of words. But me, I’ve always been too sensitive of a soul, skipping the heart-on-sleeve sewing to chuck my heart on the concrete for others like the throwing of candy at the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.
So when they told me I would be the kind of girl who walked in and out of others’ lives I simply told them no. No, I would be rooted. No, I would stay. And when they told me I would be the kind of girl to never look back at them I told them no. No, I would be turning my head back more than they could count. No, I would be spinning round & round to find them.
They were right.
I have become the kind of girl who walks in and out of others’ lives. I am there for moments. I am standing upon a stage and I am delivering some sort of message, mixed and mingled with poetry my Mama raised me on, before I am leaving, unhooking the microphone and walking away. I am finished in twenty minutes. And I am boarding a flight. And I am heading home. And I am going to do it all again next week.
What they never told me—when they said I’d be the girl to swoop in & then out, in & then out—is that I would be the one to hear the door slam the loudest. Always. I would be the one left standing by the door.
I’m sitting in a café with a friend, scraping my eggs across a plate because I don’t feel much like eating. And I don’t feel much like talking.
This was the first time that I felt a little broken while my plane was on the runway. This is the first time I have come home feeling a little bit hollow from walking away.
She asks me, “What do you think is the toughest part of your job?” She’s expecting something different than the answer I will give her. She’s expecting me to say finances, or delegation, or knowing what to charge for this or knowing how to balance that. She’s waiting for the nitty gritty details to splurge from my lips.
I say, “The hardest part is leaving.” There is a pregnant pause as I place down my fork and find the place to curl my hands around the coffee mug for comfort. “The hardest part is leaving a place when you only want to stay for a little while longer.”
It’s the thing that people never notice about my job. It’s the thing they never see when the Instagram is filled with travels and the Twitter is stocked up with 140-charactered fragments that tell of a girl living out her dreams. And while I never take my life for granted, it’s the oddest thing in the world to be singled out and set apart for your story. It’s the craziest feeling to spark people and push people with your words and then walk away to do it over again in another space and another place.
I crave connection wherever I am but it hurts to get to know the faces because always, always, you are wondering, will I see this one again?
And if the answer is no, if I never see you past the lights shining down on me and the theatre closing in all around my echoing voice, will I know how to let you go? Will I know how to want the very best for you? Will I know how to release this sadness that trembles in my throat at the thought of saying goodbye before there ever was a decent stack of hellos?
There’s a grey I can’t quite understand for moments that don’t last longer than our fingernails. There’s a sadness that thickens when I walk away from a place, or from good people. There is a loneliness only I know that comes from sharing a story to a room packed to the balconies with faces and knowing that not a single one of them can follow where you go.
“You can bring home the souvenirs,” I tell her. “But never the people. I think that’s the toughest part.”
And as we sit in silence there is irony dancing in the air as Rihanna’s latest song crawls through the speakers like a slow and mangled lullaby. I feel like crying. I feel like pursing my lips together and curling my hands into fists. I feel raw and sad to be living inside a Tuesday that hasn’t thought to schedule coffee dates with the sunlight all afternoon.
She sings about staying. About wanting someone to stay for reasons she can’t understand. And for once, I feel like she is singing about something we all know. Her voice is slow. Her melody is lonely.
When she sings it, we all mean it, “I want you to stay.”