Last weekend, I moved from an apartment complex in the suburbs of upstate New York, where I'd lived for the past six years, to an apartment in an area of the city that's reminiscent of some areas of New York City, my hometown. Anyone who's originally from NYC and moves away carries a longing for sidewalks, Starbucks, and diversity. So, while many single women my age are making the move to a house in the 'burbs, I decided to move into a more populated, diverse, and lively area, with a Starbucks that I can see from the front porch of my new place.
For some people, moving can be an exciting experience, because change usually means growth. Moving from an apartment to a house would make one feel like singing the theme song from The Jeffersons; you know, "We're moving on up, to the east side" and all that good stuff. I didn't move from an apartment to a house, but I did move eastward. For some people, moving might cause anxiety, because they're not ready to do the work that comes along with moving: purging, packing, and cleaning. For me, the opportunity to purge, reorganize, and clean were my main reasons for moving. After six years of living in the same environment, surrounded by the same belongings, memories, and junk, I decided I was ready to do the work, and began the process of taking inventory of my life in a literal and figurative sense. In going through old things, I found letters and cards from old friends, former students, family members, boyfriends, and my ex-husband. I read through a few of them, and noticed patterns in my relationships: my romantic relationships were short-lived, but intense and full of emotions. My friendships were fiercely loyal and affirming. My family has a pattern of saying little over time, but in a crisis, they come through full force, in a way that demonstrates love more than words ever could. Through this process, I learned some things about myself and my relationships, both professional and personal.
I learned that when I commit to someone in a romantic relationship, the ball is truly in my court. If I'm open and genuine, I receive more open and genuine interaction in my relationships. If I'm guarded and emotionally distant, my partner will be too. The problem arises when I choose to be guarded and emotionally distant while expecting my partner to be open and genuine - something I recently noticed I'd been doing. Although none of my relationships lasted very long, I learned that the ones in which I was willing to risk my heart were the ones that meant the most to me and the other person involved.
Growing up, so many "best friends" came in and out of my life. I noticed that my closest friends were the ones who I could trust with my true feelings; the ones who knew the real me behind the ever-present smile. They were also the ones who told me the truth about myself, whether I liked it or not. With my friendships, I learned that honesty and trust lead to loyalty and affirmation. I also learned not to cling to people, but to allow people to come in and out of my life as they choose, and as God sees fit. Just because a friendship changes doesn't mean the door is closed. Life takes us all in different directions, and if we accept that we've learned what we needed to learn when we needed to learn it from each other, it's easy to let go of a friend while remaining loyal in your heart to each other.
My family isn't the most demonstrative when it comes to love and affection, but when adversity hits, we come together and create safety for each other. When my ex-husband and I separated, I left the safety of my family to go to graduate school six hours away from everyone I knew and loved. My brother wrote me a letter in those early days. I'd moved away, started a new job and a graduate program, and was establishing new friendships. In that letter, he told me that he understood that the change wasn't going to be easy, but that I would learn through this "crisitunity" (a term learned through his Simpsons obsession) that I can do almost anything, to keep my eyes, ears, and mind open, and to always remember where I came from, as in family. My family may not know the ins and outs of my life, but when my life feels like it's falling apart, I think of them, and I remember that my foundation is strong, firm, and built on a seldom-said, but often-felt word: love.
I've worked in education for the last sixteen years. (Wow, that's a long time.) In that time, I worked as a Spanish teacher, a high school counselor, a resident director in a college dormitory, and now, as a college counselor and advisor. I've interacted with hundreds of students, and I've kept in touch with many of them. With my former and current students I've learned that demonstrating caring, concern for their personal well-being, and tough love matter so much more than what I could ever teach them, and that they really never forget the teacher, counselor, or college personnel that treated them as a unique individual rather than a number or file. They remind me that what I do on a daily basis matters to someone, which helps me to see each day as an opportunity to live my mission and purpose in life.
Time Really Does Heal All Wounds
When you're going through a crisis or heartbreak, the phrase "time heals all wounds" has to be the worst thing to hear. It means absolutely nothing to the person experiencing pain. Not only that, it feels like the person stating such a cliché is heartless and lacks empathy.
But it's true. The best part of this moving process was looking at old cards, poems, and letters from my ex-husband, and realizing that I had absolutely no emotional attachment to any of these things anymore. I was able to throw away things he had purchased for me, things he'd written to me, things that somehow made it into my half of the stuff we split up between us when we separated, without a single ounce of regret. Since he and I separated and subsequently divorced, I'd moved five times, and I'd carried these things with me everywhere I went. This recent move, my sixth, was when I could finally let go of the material things that attached us to each other, and it was so easy to do so. Time REALLY does heal all wounds, and once those wounds are healed, you can truly move forward with your life.
I Am Not Alone
When I decided to move, something very unexpected happened. I told my colleagues and students, and all of a sudden, people were coming forward to offer help. Boxes were left in my office by the maintenance staff. One of my coworkers who had moved in the past year loaned me all of her moving supplies and more boxes than I thought I'd ever need (turns out, I needed them all and then some). Another colleague drove the moving truck I'd rented. Yet another came and packed up my kitchen and helped me organize myself. Students took time out of their fall break and Halloween weekends to help me pack and to work really hard at carrying some heavy stuff. My nephew showed up without my calling or texting him (this is a big deal). They all agreed that I could not have moved by myself. I did not ask these people for their help; they offered it. I kept asking myself, over and over again, why I was blessed with so much help. A part of me felt awkward, and a little uncomfortable, about allowing students and colleagues into my personal space. When I mentioned that, one of the students said, "You've been in our lives for the past three years. I think you could let us into yours."
Something as seemingly insignificant as moving has shown me that letting go of the old can make a way for new connections, new discoveries, and new opportunities. It has shown me not to dwell on what I've lost. This move has taught me that as I've opened up and chosen to give of my genuine self, many times without thought or awareness, the people in my universe have conspired to give me the goodness within themselves. The decision to move created a movement in my heart, mind, soul, and spirit. This movement creates an opportunity for the new to enter my life, and I am excited and hopeful for all it will bring.