I Leave

NYC - JFK Airport: TWA Flight Center - Departure Board

A friend commented the other day that there’s a sadness sometimes in me. I’m always making sure, she said, that everyone will be okay when I leave and that I’m always getting ready to leave.

It’s true.

As an adult, I’ve lived in six states. I’ve moved away from my family and at least five families of friends I’d cobbled together. Each move has been my choice. Each time, I was moving toward something new or bigger – school, a job. And, I was moving away.

As a result, I’ve got friends across the country with whom I talk less than I’d like and to whom I’ve basically said, “If you want to be my friend, these are my terms.” I am fortunate enough that I’ve met some tremendous people who have chosen to love me enough to care through my leaving.

Some haven’t, and I don’t know that I’ve blamed them. This is what happens in life, people leave.

My most well-worn callouses are metaphorical. They are worn by the friction that occurs when a person leaves and rubs against whatever was as he heads toward whatever’s next.

I’ve been thinking about that sadness ever since my friend mentioned it. I’m not sure if it comes from the leaving or the unshakeable belief that everyone will leave. Maybe it’s both.

In some ways it’s an ideal mindset for a teacher. Each Fall, I’m entrusted with a new group of students for whom I care as deeply as any teacher can until the year ends and they leave. Then, a new group.

It’s not a great perspective in other relationships. Dating can be difficult when you realize you’re in love and, at the same time, wondering which of you will leave first.

The difference between the guy who left Illinois and Florida and Pennsylvania and Massachusetts and Florida, though, I hope, is that I can see it now. I can name the leaving. That forces me to understand it’s a choice, not an inescapable eventuality.

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