“…but if the goodbye is not painful, the hello cannot be joyful, either.”
Henri J.M. Nouwen, Out of Solitude
When I was 18, my dad and I, along with 4 gigantic suitcases, got on a plane to Paris. I was heading to my freshman year of college in the iconic city. We dropped off my luggage at the flat I was sharing with friends of our family’s and then set off on two weeks of visiting family friends who lived in Europe. After traveling through France and Germany, classes were set to start and my dad was going back to Colorado.
We walked up to a cemetery at the top of a hill in the small suburb where I would live during my first semester. It overlooked the western side of Paris, and you could see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. My dad and I talked about the year ahead and he prayed for me – for my classes, relationships, and in finding community. We then headed to the airport, where I sobbed as I watched my dad stand on the moving sidewalk, waving until I couldn’t see him anymore.
The next semester was tough. Learning French was not nearly as easy as I thought it would be; living in the suburbs, while it provided the support and stability of living with a family, felt far from my classes and new friends; homesickness was much more intense than I could ever imagine. Thankfully, this was before Facebook – I’m not sure I would have lasted if I could have seen my friends having “normal” college experiences.
Miraculously, I was in France during the years when airline tickets were cheap. A flight during the holidays ran just over $500. I was able to come home for Christmas and summer vacation and my family came to visit a couple times each during my nearly-4 years abroad. Each time I came home, it was such a relief, such a wave of ease and joy. Each time I went back, it was hard. I was glad for my experiences and how France shaped me, but those were incredibly difficult years, and saying goodbye was never easy.
After college and a few months in Nepal, I returned to Denver, ready to begin adult life. I had briefly thought of continuing the adventure – perhaps New York? But, deep down, I knew I needed the stability and ease of my home-state. I look at my very unadventurous life now: living in a small house with a big yard, staying at home with Bea, walking Daisy, running errands, and dreaming with Frank about our future. I think about all the painful goodbyes of college and how that time away molded me into who I am today. And, I’m so thankful for the joy of our simple life now.
Linked up with SheLoves Magazine’s month of Joy.