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Friday, September 30, 2016

Seasons Change

It's the last day of the month. I always get a little melancholy on this day. A month is ending and while I'm excited about the prospective of new adventures in the coming month, I'm sad to say goodbye. It seems funny, really. Days and months are merely markers of time with no significance other than we attach to them. I, however, attach much significance. Perhaps too much.

September has been full. This was the month I passed the liminal stage between who I was in America and who I was becoming here and melded into my new identity. Somehow it has felt as natural as who I was before the 17 years I still try to forget. Perhaps it's because it is. I do not know all the details yet of how and for how long I will stay but I do know that I am finally content.

Now I wake up in the morning curious to see what the day's adventures will bring. Now I can sleep at night with a heart filled with life. My life is filled with social and work and church activities which keep me busy. Yes, there are days when I miss the familiar, when everyone around me is speaking in their native language and I feel left out, or when I just want to hop in a car and drive somewhere. But those are becoming fewer as joy continues to expand in my heart.

Speaking of goodbyes, I've noticed that I go through cycles related to the possibility of saying goodbye. As a TCK, I am often suspended between instant connection and fear of rejection. It's a strange dichotomy. I think as children we all believe that people love us and we open up our hearts easily. As we grow older, however, we begin to learn through hard life lessons that people will hurt us and we start to build walls to protect ourselves. The TCK, however, clashes with both of these expectations.

As a child/teenager, I had to work twice as hard to connect and try to fit in. I never spoke the heart language of those around me, except for a few short years in Africa, and I didn't understand all the nonverbal cues or inside cultural jokes. Even as I appeared to connect easily, I was beginning to select with who and how I would connect at a later age. By the time I entered my early 20s, I had learned to carry myself with an air of superiority merely to protect myself.

In the past 15 years or so, I have seen a pattern emerge in how I relate to people. Initially, we are best of friends. I will share emotions and experiences that others may take months or years to feel comfortable sharing. I need to connect so I know if we can be friends on a deeper level. This is the other thing that TCKs look for--a deeper connection than the superficial.

Once I know we can be friends, I become loyal to the person. However, there always comes a tipping stage. In this phase, I realize that I have shared a lot with them and I suddenly worry that they will reject me. In order to cope with the possibility of saying goodbye, I push them away first. It hurts like crazy, worse than ripping off a band-aid, but I know I am taking back control of my heart and no longer vulnerable. So I push.

In the final stage, I wait. There are those who leave, bewildered, confused, or not even realizing what has happened. Then there are those precious ones who wait also. When I'm ready, they are still there. Even if I don't know how to express my fear of rejection and instead hurry through life with my head down, focusing on my feet instead of people's faces, they step into sync with me and walk beside me. When I say words I shouldn't say, they patiently forgive and keep loving me. These are the ones who remain.

I'm not sure I know how to break this cycle, though I know it needs to change. I now recognize the flags that go down as I run around the track, three times, four times, each flag a different colour. Most of the people stand in the bleachers, cheering yet disconnected. Except for my dear dear friends. They step down, lace up their shoes tight, take a deep breath, and fall into stride beside me.

So please forgive me if it's the last day of the month and I'm feeling a little melancholy. Autumn is in the air and a pinch of bittersweet is sinking in as we hurry to the end of the year. I don't want to say goodbye. Not to the month, not to this glorious wonder-filled year that has changed my life and opened my heart. Not to the ones who speak acceptance with a single smile. I'm stretched a little thin of saying goodbye. No more.

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