Not All Those Who Wander Are Lost: A Farewell to the South

So here we are again. Another farewell to another city. As excited as I am for my next chapter in life I could not leave without taking a moment to pause and reflect on how transformative the past few years have been. I moved here rather broken–a sad shell of the person I’d once been. My heart ached for the recent deaths of two dear friends, and having quit my first Masters program I felt a bit lost in the wilderness.

That might have been the best thing that could have happened to me. It’s funny how the moments that seem the darkest are actually the ones that illuminate the hidden places within us. Over the past three years I have been lucky enough to meet a few friends that I will carry with me for the rest of my life–you’ll see the marks of their wisdom below. I’ve had my heart broken by both people and religion, and in the midst of those heartaches I began to forge my own faith and identity. I have spent most of the past few years working with a security force battalion filled with some of the most interesting and inspiring people I have ever met. It was a place I would never have pictured myself, and some how it became home.IMG_7634

So I leave you now with a few of the life lessons I have learned from my friends and the many challenges and adventures that befell me during my time on the southeastern tip of Georgia:

1.Don’t put someone on your A Team if you’re only on their B Team. Prioritize the people in your life that prioritize you. It sounds so simple. It’s not. Do it anyway.

2. It’s okay to be selfish sometimes. If you are constantly deferring to other people and their needs you are neglecting to let them see how wonderful you are. You matter. They matter. Let your relationships be ones of mutual selflessness and selfishness. If it’s one-sided then something is wrong.

3. At some point people will show you who they truly are. Trust them.

4. Time is the most important gift we can give because we can never take it back. Taking the time for coffee or to just to give a hug and listen to some one in need–no matter how tired or busy you might find yourself–is always worth it. It makes a difference. Find a place that you love and disappear for a little while. Turn off your phone, grab a book, and just disappear. You’ll thank yourself later.

My happy place.

My happy place.

5. Whoever you are with is the most important person in the room. It matters that we do not lose those personal connections. The world is filled with infinite distractions. Try really hard to focus on the people you are with while you are with them. (Side note: If you are with someone who finds their phone or the people around you more interesting than you see lesson #1.)

There's nothing quite as therapeutic as laughing with friends!

There’s nothing quite as therapeutic as laughing with friends!

6. It is not only okay to question things, but imperative to do so. How will you ever truly know what you believe if you do not take the time to fully examine it. Do not fear the unknowns. Embrace them. As Rainier Rilke once said, “Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

7. Write letters to your friends. Even if they never write you back. It feels wonderful to get something in the mail and it takes a special form of love and patience to sit down and pen your thoughts in a world where we are all constantly connected.

8. If you don’t want to do something, say no. You don’t have to explain yourself. No is an acceptable response.

9. Let yourself feel your emotions. Sadness, Joy, Anger. They are nothing to fear. Hiding your emotions is not a sign of strength. There is beauty in the things that you feel. Allow yourself some time with them.For some things there are no words.

10. Don’t neglect your old friends! You might not see them often, but reach out to them when you can! They were a part of your life for a reason, and perhaps they still should be. My friends–near and far–keep me grounded. (Note: Don’t forget lesson # 1. If they fall into that category let them go. We don’t need that nonsense in our lives.)

I mean seriously...look at how fun these people are!

I mean seriously…look at how fun these people are!

11. Friendship is always a two-way street. When it falls apart it is never just one person’s fault, but it is also not always a bad thing. People drift. That is natural. We are always growing and changing into new people every day. As Alice said in her journey through Wonderland, “it’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.” Rather than focusing on the negatives we should realize the beauty of the time that we had with them and move on. It’s alright..

12. Do not try to change people. It will never work, and you should never want to do it. The people who easily change for others have not quite found themselves. You wouldn’t force a flower to bloom before its time. Don’t treat people any differently.

13. Look for hidden stories in the strangest of places. It will stretch your imagination, and keep you observant. Constant vigilance! (Mad-Eye Moody would approve.)

There is a story here. I just know it!

There is a story here. I just know it!

14. Do not fear your quirks. They make you unique!

15. Some days the best remedy for the world is a long chat on the beach with a great friend.IMG_757316. Other days are made a bit more magical by getting dressed up and finding that the thing you want to do most is watch a movie and drink wine. Embrace those moments when they happen.IMG_7590

17. Keep a box of mementos–letters from loved ones, concert tickets, pictures of happy times. There may be moments in your life when the weight of the world seems too much to bear. In those times that box will be a light to you and remind you that your world really is beautiful–even when it isn’t overly bright.

18. My favorite bits of dating advice: Don’t date a guy who doesn’t have a visual facial scar, who has never played team sports, and who has more dress shoes than work out shoes. And best of all: We don’t date assholes!

19. Do not let the world tell you how to find your joy. It is different for each of us. There is not set timeline. You’re single now? Enjoy it! Learn exactly who you are and love that person. You haven’t found your dream job? That’s okay. You are gaining plenty of life lessons now that will help you when that time comes. Do not let anyone make you feel less than you are in this moment. Life is a journey and each one is different. Do not gauge your success on the success of someone else. You do not know how long they have been on their road or what hardships they have overcome to get there.

20. Love is nothing to be afraid of. Far more frightening than being honest with one’s feelings is the unknowing of each missed opportunity. Be picky about who you share your heart with, and know that love is worth the risk.

My time here is done. I’ve learned a lot. Grown a lot. And now on to new adventures!

*Thanks to my fairy godparents Megan and Phil for lessons #1, #3, and, of course, #18 🙂

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