“I know how hard this year must have been with you going to college and being away from home and all,” he said as I tried to fight back the inevitable tears coming to my eyes.
He told me about his new home 300 miles away and plans to go away for a semester and trips planned with new friends to pretty places far away & right there, under the familiar glow of the same streetlights I had played tag under as a child, I realized he was completely wrong. This year was not hard because I had gone away to anywhere. It was hard because I stayed.
I am utterly convinced that the most difficult command is never to “go.” Going implies moving, being away, change. “Go” is new, fresh, exciting, unknown. Scary and thrilling. It implies somewhere else, somewhere besides here, in the same sleepy old town you’ve always lived in where you carved your name into the big oak in the park one July afternoon as a child. Somewhere besides the rut you fell into when life became a routine and everything felt so familiar.
As hard as I fought, as much as prayed, as big as I dreamed, my command was never to go. My command has been to stay. Stay in the city you swore you’d leave for college. Stay involved with the high school you grew weary of after four years of turbulent friendships and always being The Different One. Stay in the place where broken memories and Promises Of No More still haunt pieces of your heart. Stay and watch as others go.
He was wrong. Going wasn’t the hard part, staying was. And as he told me about his “going,” I felt the sting that the open wounds of “stay” held, leaving me bound by chains of stagnancy.
“Sit here and don’t move. Don’t go. You’re not leaving. He isn’t changing his mind. Don’t move, just be.”
Overwhelmed with envy as my peers get clean slates, perfectly white canvases to paint as they wish, I dream of new people, new cities, a new me. Why was school in Colorado or California or New York never an option? Why here? Why staying?
I dare you to try to recreate yourself in the city you’ve lived in for nineteen years. I dare you to grow and be different. It’s hard. So, so hard.
But even as I write, I know that going could never produce healing for me. Going could only ever act as a band-aid, as temporary relief to deep pain. Staying means I cannot run from the pain. Staying means sitting with the sources of my injury… my pain… my stinging wounds…right in front of me, head-on. It means heartache and digging up the gray parts… the parts I’ve tried so hard to numb and ignore.
Staying is the hardest command, but staying means healing. Others must go. I will stay.