Breaking Up + Building Home

I just got back from Georgia and it felt a lot like seeing an ex for the first time since a break-up.

It was all the nervous tension and trying to figure out how to act and how to feel. At first it was this bittersweet mix of formality and familiarity. We’re used to do everything together, but it’s been a while and everything is different now.

I lived there for two years and made that place my home. It’s comfortable and easy. It’s laughter and inside jokes. It’s not having to tell the back-story or swim through all the surface stuff.

I miss being known and knowing where I belong. I miss being pulled into a hug and held there. I miss someone just showing up at my door. I miss someone reading my thoughts from across the room. I miss the things that took so much time to build.

It’s hard coming back to that.

You’ve moved on, and you know it was the right thing to do. But when things ended on good terms, you can easily fall back into those conversations and into finishing each others sentences. Then it just gets painful. Life, time and geography tell you that you can’t sit next to each other anymore.

And let me tell you, Georgia looked good. He looked real good. His build was strong and his hair was perfect. His green eyes were playful, he wore a well tailored suit, and brought a lot of sunshine and memories of some of my favorite times in my life. He was confident and steady.

As for me, I was a mess. I was not what you imagine or hope to be when you run into that former love. I was not a glamorous picture of success with perfect windblown hair and a five year plan. I was a sleep-deprived mess of a woman who had just lived out her own real life SNL skit involving a flat tire and three police officers.

For some reason, I came packed with the worst of my wardrobe. My skin was freaking out. I was stuffing my face with Skittles and Goldfish (which I guess could explain the skin issue). I was also trying to plan out speaking in front of people and how to finish assignments that felt like a foreign language.

Still, Georgia was inviting. He still knew how to make me laugh and took me to my favorite restaurants. He knew all the right things to say, all the right ways to pull at my heart. He reminded me of those former glory days, back when summer evenings were long and spent by the lake. He brought back winters with coffee on the couch and Josh Garrels on the record player in the living room.

It was hard to walk away.

I wanted to turn that car around and fling myself into the arms of that southern town and say “Please, take me back! I was a fool for ever leaving you behind!”

But it was a lie and I knew it. It was desperate and crazy. It was not the healthy, wise, or sane decision.

We know when it’s time to move on.

God, people, circumstances, and life let us know when our hearts need to move forward and I’m learning how to listen.

About halfway back home, a sad song came on my playlist and like a real break up,  I started spilling my guts to God. I kept mulling over all the reasons why my life right now looks so much less than what I had back then.

Because I mean, the most consistent person in my life right now is the man at the Chick-fil-A drive-thru window who serves me my yogurt and coffee every morning.

And believe me when I tell you, I think he is just as disturbed by his consistency in my life as I am.

Building a new life and new relationships take time and they require giving your heart. It’s hard to give your heart away again when what you had before was so good. Especially when there was really no seemingly good reason to end things other than it was just time to move on, things didn’t fit anymore.

Because what happens if I do this all over again and things just stop fitting?

What if I find something good again and then I have to move on and go start over with another blank apartment, another set of streets I can’t navigate, a table with empty seats? What if I have to even go find a whole other Chick-fil-A man who can’t learn to accept the fact that I’m just going to spend an ungodly amount of money on breakfast food?

One of my bosses gave a sermon this week and said something that hit me hard:

“We say ‘I’ve been hurt in a relationship, I’m never going to date again!’ instead of saying ‘Lord, show me the qualities that make for healthy relationships, so that I will know what is truly worth hurting over.”

Things end. But Georgia was healthy and it was worth hurting over.

Maybe I won’t be here forever, but I’m here for now. I want to build things that are worth hurting over.

Someday, if I ever move away from this place, I want to come back and have that momentary second of foolishness of wanting to jump into its arms again and ask it to have me back. I won’t do it, but I want to have been so recklessly selfless with my love that I’ll want to. I want to be shaken by the memory of what it felt like to wade through all the nervous first encounters, awkward conversations, DTR conversations, stupid fights, moments of wishing I could leave, stupid inside jokes, nights around a bonfire.

I want to build something worth hurting over if I ever have to say goodbye to it.

When I moved away from home I cried when I left my mailman. Right now, I don’t even know my mailman, and it won’t really hurt if I have to say goodbye to my Chick-fil-A man. But I need it to. I need to be teary for the day when he will no longer be MY Chick-fil-A man.

I want to build a life that’s steady and full of the kind of love that cries about my neighbors and the things that become a consistent part of my life.

Because I need to build a life that’s radically ordinary, beautiful, and full of health. I’m learning it will help prepare me for the someday permanent people and places, for when the time and person comes and I find myself making promises and covenants to stay.

(P.S. the Chick-fil-A man is old, married, and is not a romantic interest in my life.)

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You’re Not Going to Change

We settled into a booth in the back of the restaurant. We talked about work, God, love. We caught up on where old friends ended up–have you heard from her lately? How is she?

Then we talked about my move, about what life is going to look like a few weeks from now.

“Coming back home is hard” I said, taking a sip of water. “I become the worst version of myself. You think you’re a different person and then instantly you come home and you go right back to the person you used to be.”

Straightforward, confident, she looked at me in the eyes and said these words,

“People don’t change, they make different choices.”

I felt them in my gut. She’s right. At the end of the day, we are who we’ve always been. But we wait to wake up one day and be someone else, to feel different things. We think that moving away and starting over is going to instantly make us become someone new.

It doesn’t. I’m realizing that in these few weeks of being back in my hometown. I was in Georgia for a year and a half, I thought I became a different person. I thought I was better. But then, I came home and old habits came barreling in and were sitting on my chest like they never left.

It wasn’t that I changed in Georgia, it was that I made different choices. I gave myself a chance–to be who I really am, without all the baggage, without all the chapters of brokenness that were tattooed to me before I left. 

New places and blank slates don’t change us, but they are usually the only reason we give ourselves a real chance to be who we’ve always been.

We’re always trying to get to some better version of ourselves, but what if the best version of us has always been there? What if we just covered it up with all the pain, judgement, and words from the years of living we’ve had so far? 

I kept thinking about the four of us. In that group of girls, there were four of us who were always drawn to sadness, to the brokenness. You could find us listening to melancholic music and weaving ourselves in and out of those lyrics. We called it our personalities, a part of us that had always been there. 

She and I talked about that. We talked about how easy it had always been for us to see pain and how that might be something that never changes.

 There are some advantages to being able to see and feel brokenness in all its magnitude.

But then we talked about how we had to turn away from that kind of sadness, because we knew that we would never change.

We wouldn’t just wake up one day and forget how to feel pain. We wouldn’t stop loving sad songs, movies with less than happily-ever-after endings. But we knew that we had to make different choices. We had to choose not to put them on our daily playlist. We had to often pick a different genre of movie.

We had to choose not to focus on the hard things, even though the temptation would always be there.

We haven’t changed, but life is different. Life doesn’t look the way it did when we were sixteen. But we didn’t change, we just grew up and decided that we had to make better choices.

The choices bring the change, not the other way around.

You’re not going to wake up tomorrow and love working out. You won’t wake up tomorrow and have no feelings toward the person that broke your heart. You won’t magically wake up tomorrow happier, healthier, stronger, more beautiful than you are today.

The change you want to see is in your choices–it’s not in a formula of moving away, and starting over. You’ll be the same person tomorrow, even if you wake up in a different place.

I’m starting to think that there’s a part of me that will always be this girl. Some part of me knows that I’ll be the girl who gets impatient with the people of my hometown, who is drawn to days spent lying in bed and accomplishing nothing. That I’ll always be drawn to being the person who wants to throw away responsibility because I’m an all or nothing kind of girl–if I can’t do it perfectly, I don’t want to do it at all.

That’s not going to change. I won’t just open my eyes ten years from now and not be that girl. But the change comes in choosing patience, getting out of bed, choosing responsibility, giving myself the grace of making mistakes a long the way and not throwing it all away when I do.

Sitting in that booth, she and I were the same girls we’ve always been. We still laugh at sarcasm, can read each other’s facial expressions, still love pizza. But life is different and that’s because of the choices we’ve made. Day by day, we chose different things, places, roads to take than we used to.

I’m starting think that Robert Frost guy was on to something. It was the road that diverged in the wood, not the person.

It came down to choice–and in the end, that’s what made all the difference