Do you have to go?

Melissa Hug

There is a Frederick Buechner quote I love (funny, I included a Buechner quote in my last post): You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world, but a world lives in you.

It’s been four years now, but when I think about it too hard I almost experience that sick feeling in the pit of my stomach all over again. Graduating from college was hard because the place I had called home for four years that had grown and shaped me in immeasurable ways wasn’t exactly going to be my home anymore, but that was not the reason I felt like I was going to throw up. I had to say goodbye to one of the most incredible friends I had ever made. When we had met, I don’t think either of us had noticed anything particularly remarkable about the other one, but when we finally had the chance to get to know one another, our souls touched. After sharing a life-changing summer in Georgia, the ups and downs of being a college student, and supporting one another through being an RA, a semester abroad, internships, student teaching and frustrating jobs, it was hard to believe two friends could be so close.

But then it all came roaring to a premature halt. She was off to Australia to better get to know both a country and a man she had come to love and I was to remain in Chicago searching for teaching jobs.

I hate goodbyes. I’ve hated them since the day I was born and I’m sure I’ll hate them until the day I die. I wish I could keep all those I love right next to me in a designated location all working and living and growing and learning together. I wish we could all get to know each other and enjoy each other, while we swap stories and share commentary on books, music, and movies, enjoy each others’ spouses and children, eat meals together and relax after a day of work well done. But, that day four years ago is evidence I don’t live in this reality.

The people I love are scattered all over the globe. We can’t keep those we love close to us. The truth is, even when we do stay geographically close, nothing stays the same. People change. The threads that used to keep you connected loosen. We get caught up in busy schedules. New people and responsibilities are introduced to the equation and things can and never will be exactly the same.

Fortunately, I am learning that while sometimes (oftentimes even) things do get harder with goodbye, good can come from goodbye, too. It is so beautiful when you can be reunited with a friend whose path has taken them far from you, but it’s evident that they are exactly where they need to be and you can share in the joy of all that has happened in both of your lives. Then there are the incredible new friendships that can be formed when you come to terms with the reality of goodbye. If you are too fixated on the old that may already be long gone your heart will never have enough space for the sweet new relationships yet to be formed.

But I hold to the idea that even when we say goodbye there is still so much left. I’ve learned countless lessons from the people who have stepped in and out of my life. No matter how long or short they stayed, each made an impact. Every interaction, laugh, shed tear, intellectual exchange, they all mean something. They all teach us a lesson. They make us stronger. So even when I am heart-sick with a fresh goodbye still on my tongue, I can slip through the sadness with a smile, thankful for the people the Lord has been good enough to bring into my life.

I may never enjoy goodbyes, but I am not (quite as) afraid of them anymore. Though that friend still lives just as far from me as she possibly could, I feel just as close to her as ever. When we come together nothing is the same and everything is the same all at once. The feelings we feel, the prayers we pray, the words we exchange, they are all possible in part to our goodbye and for that reason, I guess I owe “goodbye” a “thank you.”


Where have you been called?

Where have

The Fillmore family was on one of the vacations my parents took so much care to plan. For us, family vacations meant lots of time in the car, some tense moments, tons of laughter, mixed tapes carefully crafted by my sister, at least one movie, an educational activity of some kind that gave my mother an opportunity to gather postcards and brochures for her classroom, and a lot of going out to eat. It was during one of these meals that my sister decided to count how many times I went off on one of my impassioned rants. Sometimes she purposely brought up a subject she knew would get me riled up and then she would laugh after I took the bait, but mostly I would start one fiery speech after another without any prompting. I remember trying to hold back, not wanting to play into the game my parents and sister were enjoying a great deal, but I couldn’t help it! I had to say what I had to say and do what I had to do!

Most who know me know nothing has changed. There are many, many different ways I relate to other twenty-somethings, but there are a couple ways I just can’t. For many, some of the most prominent characteristics of the quarter life crisis are a lack of occupational direction and a desire to quit the dead end job they’re in and go on a pilgrimage in search of themselves. For me, the passion has already been ignited and I am far too “found” to enjoy the momentary reprieve of being “lost.” My mind never stops, I spin into a panic if asked to act contrary to my identity for even a minute, and my dreams are so bright and vivid that is hard for me to imagine a scenario where I don’t risk everything in order to attain them.

Now, that’s not to say that I never have moments of confusion where I lack clarity and need to ask a trusted friend or family member for advice and it certainly doesn’t mean I know exactly where I will end up when it’s all said and done. What it does mean is that I know that tomorrow is never promised and I don’t want to waste a single second wallowing in directionless-ness. I want to spend every moment encouraging, energizing, and loving on as many people as possible. Frederick Buechner, an author I was fortunate enough to be introduced to when I was in undergrad, wrote, “The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.” Tonight, I took my final class for my master’s program. It was a huge triumph, but I still have a long way to go. I’m getting used to the sideways stares I receive when I tell people I will be spending next year working a full-time job in addition to working twenty hours per week at an internship. I’m nervous about being tired, stressed, and most likely having to say goodbye to my social life, but I am also excited. Next year is going to bring me one step closer to that place Buechner is talking about.

But you are not me and I am not you, and though I have found my passion and it is difficult for me to understand how others live without one, I’m learning to be more empathic toward those who are still in search of themselves. Whether or not you know what you want or where you want to end up, I have learned something valuable from from some of even the most seemingly clueless college students who haven’t even declared a major yet; everyone has something to offer. Every day you have a choice to learn, grow and share. Even if your future vocation is unknown, you can still take the time to enjoy beauty, give selflessly, and love people. Who knows, while you are doing all those things, you just might stumble upon your calling.