Have you ever felt a bit like a ghost in your life? It’s a disconcerting reaction, and can leave you feeling a bit hollow on the inside.
I recently spent the day in the town of my first truly adult, post-college job. Small and quirky, and quintessentially Minnesotan – for two and a half years I’d run these streets, frequented the local coffee shop and deli counter at the Co-op often enough to be known by name.
When I left that job at the end of December last year, I wrote about how saying goodbye can feel like breaking up – even when it’s with a job, a coffee place, a gym. Words were the only gift I had to leave in my place.
In the little more than a year that passed, I’ve only returned once – to run a race. The friends have remained a familiar fixture in my life, but it’s a different thing to go to lunch in one of the “regular” spots, feel the shop-talk conversation wash over you, and realize you don’t fit anymore. To walk the streets and have it seem both achingly familiar and unrecognizably different. This might have once been your place, but not anymore. It left a hollowness in my chest. A certain sense of disquietude. It’s funny to think that we can make the choice to walk away from something and still be a little sad and a little haunted by how easily that life had let you slip out from under it.
I made the right choice when I left. I don’t doubt that. But revisiting the past is a bit bittersweet. I’m not a stranger to the risk that comes with setting down one way of life for something new. [See the chapter entitled “And Now, I Think I Shall Move to Scotland…”] When you walk away from something, it doesn’t always wait for you to return, like a faithful puppy … assuming that you’d even want to return. And, I’m not one to wallow in regret. Life is a myriad of choices at every turn. Sometimes the choice is easy and clear. And sometimes, the choices are such that the fine line between happiness and endless “what if?”s is the strength of your own convictions. Your willingness to make the choice you’ve made BE the right one.
In the end, visiting for that day felt a lot like running into an old boyfriend. So many things rush at you: a torrent of all the good things you’ve missed and the less good things that made you leave… While you’re bobbing along these suddenly choppy seas, you check your balance and realize – with a larger amount of relief than you’d like to admit – you’re okay. What’s standing in front of you has shaped you, and you’re grateful for it, but you’re finally able to value it for what it is … and see it for what it’s not. Then, you turn for home, and leave it all where it belongs – in the past.