For most of my life, I was always the one doing the leaving. I was the leaver. I left the state I was born in within a couple of years. I left the next state after 1st grade, and then left the country a couple of months into 2nd grade. That turned out to be one of many countries, schools and friends I would leave behind in the years to come. In college I left my peer group to study abroad. Less than a year into my first professional job, I left my new colleagues behind to try my luck overseas. After several years I left those colleagues and friends to return ‘home’, only to end up pursuing more overseas assignments and jobs with business travel.
Leaving was my thing.
Leaving was scary, but exhilarating. I imagine it must be rather like bungee-jumping — you’re pretty sure you won’t die, but that might feel questionable during the free-fall that ensues. All your senses are on high alert. Big memories are burned into the landscape of your life. When you are the leaver, you get to control the when and the where. So much leaving begets many farewells, glorious times of reflection and demonstration of caring. Reunions are much the same. The passage of time is marked with bright, colorful comings and goings, and a sense of forward motion.
The perception of stability was created by the home base, initially provided by my parents and then by my own family. It was a refuge of familiarity and continuity in a sea of change and newness. I could flit in and out of this cozy nest, where I was missed when absent and greeted with warm hugs upon returning.
That was then. This is now. Roles have switched. I am now watching my young adult children come and go. Off to college, home for laundry, home-cooking and hugs. Off on vacation, home with stories, excitement and hugs. Out with friends for the night, home long after I’m asleep. Off to a new job assignment with lots of travel, with the home-coming routines still to be discovered. It’s my turn to guard the home base. It’s my turn to wave them off into the world and prepare for the homecomings.
Being left behind is my new thing.