“You can never discover new oceans, unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.” -Anonymous, Senior quote for Britt Lutgen.
When I chose those words to be typed next to my picture in the yearbook back in 1998, I had no idea how much they would shape my life over the next decade and a half.
I also had no idea what kind of courage it took to sail away from the shore.
At 18, that quote had nothing to do with leaving and everything to do with going somewhere new. New York City, I imagined. And the only thing I had to lose sight of was the small Iowa town that could never be enough for wild-spirited girls with more dreams than sense.
It would take almost ten years for me to actually leave.
I had a little better idea by then of how hard it was to leave the shore. I appreciated that small Iowa town and the people who made it home for me and my kids. I cried when we pulled away in the U-Haul loaded up with everything we owned. But all of my courage, I thought, was saved up for building a brand new life in a brand new place.
Almost four years later, and we’re packing up to leave that life, and it is sailing away from this shore that has finally made me realize what the anonymous philosopher was talking about when he said it would take courage.
It’s not the venturing out to see new oceans that requires bravery.
It’s the willingness to break your own heart.
Our friends threw us a going away party this weekend, and it was humbling to see how much love had been given to us. In less than four years we have, all of us, made friendships that feel like family.
We have made friendships that hurt to leave.
We’ve celebrated pregnancies and waited for notice that babies had arrived safely. We’ve fallen in love with other people’s children and mourned the loss of baby faces.
This child did not exist four years ago and I had no idea who his mother was, and now it kills me to think that he may forget my face or never say my name.
This is Courtney. Courtney and I didn’t know each other’s names four years ago and it is only by chance that we met after our husbands befriended each other at work.
Last week Courtney spent hours planning, baking, making decorations, and putting together a scrapbook for us – all while sick, working full-time, and going to school. Her parents have played surrogate grandparents to my own kids. Her daughter had her first sleepover at my house. I haven’t even figured out yet how to tell her how much she and her family have meant to me and mine, and already I have to learn how to tell her goodbye.
And there are more, so many more goodbyes to be said and friendships to pack up and drive away from.
This is the part that takes courage.
It’s not planning the adventure or the idea of sleeping in a tiny RV. It’s not plotting points on a map and deciding how long you’ll stay in each city. The oceans are the fun part, the easy part that takes just a little more dreams than sense.
It’s the letting go that hurts.
Jared and the kids are going back to a small Iowa town today. Jared’s grandpa died and the funeral is on Friday. In the midst of all the packing and planning and preparing to go on the road, we started getting calls from home that another end was coming quickly.
I keep thinking that Walt had the easy part, the job of going on. But Jared, his mom, and everyone else in the family, they have the hard part now. They’re the ones that have to let go.
“You can never discover new oceans, unless you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
Now I get it.