Occupy new space.

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“Andy Jacobs,” I muttered beneath my breath as my hands curled up into fists at my sides.

I was standing in the center of what was once my living room, surrounded by black trash bags and packed boxes. I was wearing a bright yellow dress that made my mama tell me, “You’ve never looked more beautiful than this moment.” 

It was the only thing I could think to say when my roommate poked her head out from the refrigerator and asked me if I wanted to keep the kettle. Otherwise, she would throw it out. Just a few days earlier, this had been our apartment. It’d been home to us. Memories were taped up on the doors. The ceremony was over. I had ten minutes to gather the rest of my stuff. My mother told me my relatives were waiting to celebrate my graduation nearly 45-minutes away. I told her I needed more time for goodbyes. She told me I had ten minutes. I balled the cap and gown up into a brown Trader Joe’s bag. And all I could think to murmur in that moment was the name of my eighth grade boyfriend: Andy Jacobs.

 

The Great Romance of Andy Jacobs and I ended quickly with a swift and merciless breakup.

It was a sudden sting. I lied about that breakup for several years and told all my friends we both decided it was over. I was just that young and embarrassed by it. In actuality, I was over-the-moon during the days when I had a “someone.” The cool ones had a “someone.” And I was legitimately thrilled to check my AIM profile every hour or so to see my name sitting there in his status box. I checked that thang nearly every day just to see my name. And it was always there. Until one day it wasn’t. He’d made his status “Single and loving it” before he even broke up with me. He was eager to tell the world I was gone. When he called me on the phone to tell me it was over that night, my fingers tangled and shaking in the curly cords of the rotary phone, I whispered back, “I know.” Because I already knew. It was over. I proceeded to write super dramatic poetry in my diary. There would be no Hannah Jacobs. Ever.

But here I was again— surrounded by black trash bags and expired memories and the remnants of my college life packed up into cardboard boxes. College was breaking up with me. We were really over. The letting go was so quick, as if it was ready to release me all along. And I was surrounded by people who I knew probably understood but I still felt like no one understood. That’s what happens when you go through something that thousands upon millions of others have gone through before— you still find a way to convince yourself that you’re the only one.

 

People will tell you the first year after college is the hardest one.

It’s not the case for everyone but I’ve witnessed it to be a true statement for most. Makes sense, though. For the last few years, you’ve built up this solid sense of belonging. You’ve taken classes. You’ve invested in a campus. You’ve had those nights— you know the ones. And then life changes and shifts and the whole thing ends. It feels very unnatural.

And the weirder of the weird things— it goes on without you. Other people enter in as you push out. It’s like watching your ex fall in love with someone new. You knew you couldn’t stay there forever but it still stings to witness all that newness curl in around someone else for the very first time. You still see people enjoying what you once had and you start whispering things you know will never be true, “I could stay. I could really stay. I could live in the past of this thing. I could occupy this space forever.” 

Turns out, you can’t. Your life is not a Throwback Thursday. For lack of a prettier way to say this– It completely nonsensical to live in the space when things were better & brighter & sweeter than this. There is no backspace button. Very little of the time are we granted the redo. It was meant to be this way. We never got promised journeys with no turbulence. We never were told, “Well, you’ll always cry happy tears. And you’ll always feel like you belong. And you’ll always have the answers.” The tears will be ugly. The outcast feelings will be real. You’ll never have the answers. The answers are never the point. 

You’ll have a lot of downs. You’ll feel a bit like the shoes don’t fit on your feet anymore. You’ll ask all the bigger questions you never bothered to mouth when your friends were there, and the fridge was stocked with wine coolers, and the biggest thing on your brain was a term paper. When the moments are good, you never stop and ask: What is the point of my life? Where am I going? Where do I belong? How, oh, how do I do something that matters in this big world?

It’s like any breakup— you either live in the past of old sweaters and best nights and questions you can’t possibly answer or you refuse to be defined by a relationship you outgrew.

 

I met up with a new friend just the other night at a pretty little placed called Dr Bombay’s Underwater Tea Party.

She and I, we’d never met before. I’ve just come to accept that some of the best friendships— the kinds of friend who send you poetry in traffic jams— are usually an instant sort of thing. You both come into it with enough resolution to say, “This is where I’ve been. This is how I’ve felt. This is what I am looking for. I’ve got no interest in friendships that won’t be real to me.”

And we sat among stacks of books in a city I call “new,” pursing cups of tea between our hands and talking about the moment when you know it is time to go and breathe. The moment when you know, it’s time to leave.

“I had to leave,” she told me. “I had to leave and let go because it wasn’t my space anymore. Someone else would come in and they would do an even better job than me. And I would have to go and occupy new space.”

Occupy new space. That’s the sort of thing they should say when a diploma gets passed. When someone leaves a city they’ve loved with their whole body. Instead of good luck. Instead of, “it will never be this way again.” Someone should get up real close to you and say, “You must go out there and occupy new space. Whether you feel it or not, this ending is very much your ready-or-not moment. Choose ready.” 

 

Choose ready.

Occupy new space. Embrace the awkward momentum of something new. Get your feet wet. Don’t worry so much about looking like you have it all together— you’re more put together than you can probably see or notice. Be good to people. The real world is all about those real people. And no, there’s never a reason not to serve. Press into life with gusto and other Italian nouns. Commit to what is around you. Be grateful.

When people try to tell you that college will be the best four years of your life, politely decline that misconception. College should never be the best four years of your life— that’s a disservice to a future you’re called to make bright and purposeful. When people tell you that you can’t make a difference, politely tell them no. They’re wrong. Don’t listen. And here’s the moral behind every one of those conversations you have: not everyone will be your cheerleader. Not everyone will understand. Let people think you are crazy. Crazy is a good thing. Wild hearts are necessary. The world needs wild hearts. Stay thick with wanting to change the world, that will be your golden ticket one day.

Own it. Go all in. Lay it all on the line. In the end, there is no other option than this. You either occupy the space you’re in or you don’t. You either went out there and did it with all you had or you didn’t. Either way, the choice was yours the whole time.

You must go out there and occupy new space.

Whether you feel it or not, this ending is very much your ready-or-not moment.

Choose ready.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to say goodbye.

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Sometimes I write things with the clearest picture in my mind of who I am writing them for. It’s like I can see you. You, with the red lipstick that you just got confident enough to start wearing. You, the one who doesn’t really understand the unique thing that people see you to be. I can see you sitting there. Reading me. And I search the ground, sort of like an Easter egg hunt, for the things I think you’d want to read.

And then sometimes I write something just so that I can go back and read it. Maybe once. Maybe twice. I write the words for myself, pretending that someone else is writing them for me. I do this strategically. I do this so that I don’t have to feel like the one who is alone– her hands full of unanswered questions– in the middle of something I don’t fully understand.

 

Goodbye is one of those things.

One of those things I don’t fully understand yet. I’m no good at it. I’d rather not go there. I’d find it better to beeline the whole entire thing. I don’t want to miss people. I don’t want to know they are growing in my absence.

That’s the secret pain of goodbye: people still have the permission to grow into their own skin without you. And that feels very strange. And I’m tempted to just say, “No, you can’t. Please. Just don’t. Just stay as you are.” But that’s selfish. You don’t get to keep people, selfishly, just so you don’t have to be so fearful they’ll find a way to live without you.

The only thing I know for certain about this whole “goodbye” thing? You have to say it sometimes. You have to get real brave, and bite your bottom lip, and let people go sometimes. Fully, fully. Even when you don’t feel ready.

 

They always make the point of goodbye seem so romantic on the television.

Someone is always waiting by the terminal. Someone is always asking you to stay, hurdling suitcases so that they can clutch your face. I used watch Dawson’s Creek and imagine I’d get to have all the long, grueling departures one day, just like Joey Potter. I thought that would be the real golden duck of adulthood– when people found it terribly hard to release me.

It isn’t. And Joey Potter should have just been honest and told us all the truth, “Goodbyes suck. And there’s no eloquent way to say that. There is no poetic way to talk about ugly crying on someone’s nice shirt. There is nothing in the moment that makes walking away seem reasonable. It’s just hard.” And you awkwardly just sort of hope that someone will tell you not to go. Because maybe you would listen to them. Maybe a big white poster board with the letters “STAY” written in black Sharpie would convince you to do just that. Just stay. For little while longer.

Because goodbye is hard. Goodbye is the starting point you don’t see because the finish line is so piled high with tears and last words and fears that this– this thing you have right here– will never be the same. Don’t fear that. Don’t fear that because it’s already true. It won’t ever be the same. It could be over. It could be final. But it could be better than the two of you could ever predict. That could happen too.

And yes, it feels like something in the room is dead or dying or about to die. And the scary thing about that? That’s already true too.

Something is dying. We can’t even ignore it. It sounds so morbid but goodbye is really just admitting that something is dying. You two came together– for a month or for a year or for five of those years– and you built something. You breathed your whole little life into that thing. Your secrets. Your fears. Your laughter. All into that thing. That friendship thing, that “I’ve never really met someone like you” sort of thing. And then, out of nowhere, it feels like something comes along and lobs the whole thing into pieces. That’s what a goodbye will do.

Goodbye is the fear– temporary and real– that we’ve carried for years up until that one word– short & stout– made it all tip over and all pour out: I am afraid to leave. I am afraid to change. Can you just keep me here? Can we never move? I’m afraid you will forget me. I’m afraid I’ll be forgotten in a room full of people who always seem to be remembered.

When I stood at the door to say goodbye, I muddied up the whole thing.

I let the fear speak louder than the genuine thing inside of me that knew goodbye was the only road to take.

“I hate goodbyes,” I told her. “I’m sorry. I’m just so bad at them. I wish they didn’t exist. I want to be like an octupus who has 8 arms and can just hold onto everything always. I wish I could just go in the night.” It was all my fears and insecurities that I would never have it this good again, all mounted and stored up inside of that word.

She stopped me. “It’s goodbye,” she said. “And then you get over it.”

That’s all she said before she pulled me in for a hug. And then she let me go. And everything about her gesture of letting me go so quickly– nearly like a band-aid you rip off and pretend there is no sting– seemed to hum the truth:

You, I believe in you. That is why I am so quick to let you go. Trust me, trust me, the human thing inside of me wants to keep you right here. Right where I can see your eyes and I can hold your hand. But even if you can’t see it, I can see it and I can ignore it no longer: you are ready. It is time. If I held you back, I’d be the one doing a disservice to the parts of this world that so deserve the blessing of “you” for a little while.

So cry your tears. And say your last words. And when you are emptied out, let me go. Please let me go. Don’t live in your memories, making tents and tiny houses out of the way we used to be. Something really wonderful awaits you. I need you to step inside of it.  Say goodbye because something new is about to start right here.

And me? Well I’ll carry the thought of you doing just fine. I’ll carry the thought of you meeting new people, and holding new pairs of hands, and clutching people closer than you ever clutched me. I’ll remember that when you came to me it was a blessing. A temporary blessing that we’ll one day see if we can make permanent. But for now, it’s you and all the little lives you’ve got to go out there and touch.

You’re ready. That’s why I’m letting you go. And everyone else? Everyone else who gets you for this next little “I’ll see you everyday” sort of while? They win. I don’t feel like much of a winner in this moment, but them? They absolutely win.

Fishing lines of loneliness & a decent chance to walk away.

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I can still remember how you didn’t say anything for a while.

I could tell, without even holding them, that your palms were sweating. I kept looking forward, tapping my fingers against the steering wheel until you finally spoke.

“I don’t want to become one of your life lessons,” you said. “I don’t want you to turn me into that.” 

Still, to this day, those are the hardest words I’ve ever had to hear someone tell me. It was hard to hear that request come off the lips of someone who didn’t fit into my life any longer. We didn’t have a future together. We’d already given up and yet we were still meeting in secret places. And we were using one another to avoid reality and the pain that would come with giving up and moving on. There would be loneliness when we let go of one another, we both knew that, and neither of us wanted to face that.

It was the first time I realized that people genuinely want space in our lives.

People genuinely crave simple and true relationships in a world full of overly complicated and very fragile things. They want perfect worlds where everything fits. They want no one to get hurt or scathed. And when the world doesn’t work that way, and the stories don’t unfurl their wings with perfect happy endings, then people get desperate to hold onto things they no longer value like they used to. And they find a way to keep a person tied close. And they check in every once in a while. And they bring that person up in conversations. And they sit hollowed out, with a cup of coffee between their hands, when they have nothing left to share but a sad, little ending with not nearly enough closure.

That. Is. How. Our. World. Works. Today. And I ain’t afraid to say it. I ain’t afraid to admit that a lot of people, including me, walk around fearful and relentless not to let another person slip through their fingers. The world turned out to be harder than we all expected and we’d rather keep close the people that fit our spirits no longer, safe in our sights, than to let them go off and find the healing and freedom they can only get apart from us.

I’ve started calling them the “fishing lines of loneliness.”

The ways we bait one another into communication because we are all so afraid of what would really happen if the screen shut off and we had to face ourselves. Alone. Single. Separate from the wreckage of relationships we should have said goodbye to yesterday.

The fishing lines of loneliness come out on a Thursday night or a late Friday evening when the world gets quiet. You can’t handle scrolling through the Facebook streams any longer and you feel this loneliness in your core that is hard to give words to. It makes you feel unworthy. You feel all alone. You struggle with guilt. You pound your fists against the sides of you and say things like, “What is wrong with you? Why can’t you be productive right now? Why aren’t you out enjoying life?” And, just like a little black book you can pull from your side pocket, your iPhone reveals a slew of numbers you can text to make that loneliness disappear for a while.

They’re old flames. They’re friendships that never had any boundaries to them. They’re people you’ve strung along without ever having to define anything. They’re past relationships–broken and battered– that never needed another stir of the pot.     

You send a few texts. And then you wait for the fish to catch on and the conversations to begin.

 “Hi! How are you?”
    “I’m good. How have you been?”
    “Great! I’ve missed you…”

There’s a tone of sobriety and sadness in the conversations, as if you both know you aren’t going back to where you once were but you are trying to salvage something all the same.

I’ve brought this up to about a dozen women in the last week and every single one has raised up their hands and said, “Yes, I know exactly what you mean. I know exactly who those people on my list are.”

And no one feels particularly guilty about these fishing lines of loneliness if it makes the hollow feeling inside fade for a bit. And so we carry on conversations we really don’t need, and we hash out memories that don’t have a place in our lives anymore, and we cling to anything that makes us feel special, and wanted, and worthy for the moment, even if it’s two-dimensional and someone else’s feelings get played with for a while. We hurt one another because we know how to. It’s not that we ever wanted to, but we certainly know how to.

In a perfect world, we could stay here forever.

Our relationships would never break. We’d always have a sense of home in our hearts. We’d never need to reach inside our pockets to remedy our loneliness with tapping on a screen to someone who fits us no longer.

In a perfect world, we’d never have to question why someone was in our lives, over & over again, until it reached a point of letting them go when we know they don’t belong. Not for the sake of being a lesson learned. Or the latest blog material. But mainly because people deserve to be let go when they no longer serve a purpose in our lives.    They deserve to know it. They deserve the decent chance to walk away.

We are powerful things and we often don’t give ourselves enough credit for that. We can break a heart, cut a person out, retrace every feeling ever given to someone else with just a few jumbled words. That’s way more weight than we expected to shoulder. Eventually we need to accept that some conversations will never take us anywhere. Some interactions will hinder us more than help us. Some people will keep us rooted in the past so much that we forget we even cared to look to the future. Still, it is so hard to say goodbye because we want to convince ourselves that we can hold onto every human being that we cross paths with. Like it would never hurt us. Like it would never break us to keep all those hearts hostage.

In a perfect world, we could stay here forever.

In a perfect world, you’d be far more to me than a lesson learned. A chapter closed off. A book ending. A number deleted. A beginning rising that doesn’t hold your name in the dedication section. I’m sorry I kept you all this time. Safe in a heart that gripped crumbs for too many years. I’m learning not to tangle you in any longer. Not to weave you into conversations that never were fit for your name.

You and I both know that our wings are waiting in separate corners of this earth.

This is me, giving you the decent chance to walk away.

No Hacer Ruido: Some love letters stay silent.

**A little more fiction to feed the soul. Would adore any feedback**

Lately you say that you are ready to pack up and leave.

You say this place has been perfect. It was exactly what you needed. You uncovered a sense of self within these four walls.

You talk and talk these days about Machu Picchu. The Rio. Bogota. And each one of your dimpled smiles serve as an illustrated example as to why we have to let some of our biggest dreams go. So That They Can Make Their Own Dreams Come True.

I wrestled with indecision over making your stay comfortable. Not too comfortable. Not so comfortable that you would never leave. Not so comfortable that you would debate on staying here with me instead of chasing them. Those dreams of yours.

The ones that resided there first.

You came to me with those shattered dreams. Emaciated Soul. And when you held them out to me I knew it was my job to fix you. Not Hold You. Or Grown Tender To You. Fix You. Fix You To Then Release You.

Some days you turn your head toward me and I can chart out your childhood, your boyhood, your manhood and my place in each one. But I  gently put my finger to your chin and nudge you to look not at me. But at the horizon. You were not made to look at me for too long. I am not the prettiest photograph in an album of sepia-toned miracles that this world is going to grant you.

When you turn toward the door these days I can already sense the intention. The difference in your turning. You are already letting the melody to my laughter, the sound of my lisp that you never told me was there, slip from your keeping. You are already leaving nicknames and secrets at the door.

How could I be so silly to believe that a memory of me could fit in your mochilla full of dreams?

If I could preserve your turning at the door, tuck it into the back of the sock drawer, I might pull it out one day and show her. “This, my love, is called forgetting,” I would tell her.

I guess I will be the smallest of your worldly experiences now. You’ll touch monuments. History. Frozen Chunks Of Time. Their surfaces will glisten with remnants of your idle tracing thumbs. Thumbs that once circled my shoulders.

And those travelers you come across. The Other Seekers. The ones who have taken the time to master the love languages but still will never be as fluent as me in the only language that is Love. The ones you swore only needed to open their mouth and let out one sweet syllable to lock you up in God’s existence for eternity. They will be the ones to receive the broken Spanish from your lips now.

I swear I would take anything from your lips. Broken or not.

And so we sit at the table and you highlight your travels for me. I grow jealous of the borders that will keep you in their arms. I grow bitter at the oceans. The rivers. The lakes. “I am a better basin for his tears,” I want to tell them. I am a better basin for your tears.

But you fold up the map and I see you smile and I know that whatever you are looking for, you are going to find it. And this is every reason to let you leave. Or watch you go. I am not so sure which one it is these days.

And I am sneaking from your half embrace lately and letting the night listen to me as I practice Spanish for you. I am learning words that you might be proud of. But intertwined with each word that I practice, each “R” that I roll, is the best lesson that my father ever disciplined to me: No Hacer Ruido. To Make No Noise.

To make no noise, even when I want to tell you that Amarillo means yellow. Corazon means heart. Permanecer means to stay. Ojos means eyes.

Eyes.

What I would give to steal Peru’s hazel eyes, the big brown Ojos of Colombia, to peek through the long lashes of Ecuador and see you feel at home. Laughing. Grinning. Stunning.

In a way that I always knew I never quite could keep captivated forever.

Best Friends: They live in our hearts but they always pay the rent.

It’s that map you can draw perfectly on the back of a napkin leading to exactly where they are.

It’s those seven digits that you know by heart and one of the few “home phone numbers” still stored in your memory.

It is the words that never take shape. You glance at one another and you realize, words are not necessary for this moment.

This is a best friend.Most of us have these people in our lives, the people we can call at a moment’s notice and they will be there without a second thought.To Sweep Up Our Broken Hearts. To Bottle Our Sobs. To Skip Through Life’s Wonders Alongside Us.

I believe in fate and if ever I begin to doubt it I only need to look to my best friends to reassure myself. Think for a moment of your best friends. Picture in your head where you first met them, that first encounter. Think about how that friendship grew and progressed to what it is now. My best friends came from all over, a retreat, my kindergarten class, freshman orientation. But what if I had chosen to skip the retreat that weekend or attend a different college? My life would be so drastically different and they would not be a part of it. It is this: I was somewhere. They were too. We both collided. The world looked different from that moment forward.

I woke up this morning with swollen eyes because I spent all last night sobbing. It was a final farewell to my best friend as she made her way to Prague for five months. I know it is not over, that we will see each other again, but I still felt my heart break as I watched her in the rear view mirror as our car pulled away. And She Stood There. And I Wanted To Turn Around.

We have talked a lot about how it doesn’t feel like it is time to say goodbye; we have been inseparable for the past few months that it feels like we should have longer. But We Shouldn’t. Why? Well, it is the simplest of life lessons. If we needed more time, we would be granted with it.

But this morning I awoke, puffy eyes and all, and I looked in the mirror and realized, “I am who I am because of her, because of all the people in my life who have come and gone. I would not be the same without them.” What a crazy, crazy thought: We undergo change and development because of the little fact that people are constantly coming and going in our lives. Makes me think twice about my every day interactions and potential that each person holds.

Take one minute of your Monday to think back on a single moment you have had with a best friend. Perhaps it was that time that you laughed until you had trouble breathing. Or maybe that time you ordered everything on a menu for the thrill of it but spent the rest of the day with belly aches together. And just let yourself go back to that moment and smile.

I will share the moment that is coming to my mind: A few nights ago, my best friend Celia and I were unpacking my room from winter break and I was so excited to use my new bed spread. I had bought this bed spread with my mother and it had been marked down from $160 at Urban Outfitters to $70, however, at the register it rang up as $21. SCORE! Well it was a very pretty patterned black and white bedspread and Celia helped me put it on the bed. We took a few steps back to look at it and realized that there was a giant deer on the bed spread. A big black and white deer, fawn, buck (whatever you want to call it), staring right back at me. I bought the bed spread without realizing that Bambi’s relative was on the front of it. Thankfully it was reversible but Celia and I sat on the floor laughing til we cried for a good 20 minutes over the hilarity of the purchase. And so I realize I am totally OK with the deer being there, I will let him stay for a while, because he brought about that moment.

What best friend moment comes to your mind?