Decisiveness is not my strong suit. I am so indecisive that I swear I am the muse for all of Justin Bieber's songs on the topic. Whereas many a decisive person can make a choice in less time than it takes my heart to circulate blood to my muscles while doing an insanely demanding workout, the earth might as well have evolved into the next ice age in another 5 million years before I can formulate a confident conclusion. The gray area of pros and cons, divided loyalties, and mixed emotions offer me no aid in escaping the sludge of questioning: What do I do? How do I proceed?
My heart is divided between my life as it is in this moment and a life I am not acquainted with in the future. The past eighteen months have taken me through a whirlwind of transitions, challenges, ups, downs, heartaches, joys, and everything in between. Though a great majority of it was spent trying to create deep and meaningful relationships and struggling through a long bout of loneliness, in the past couple months I have emerged with a greater sense of community and friendship than I had initially expected to find. I have made incredible friends with whom I can share any struggle and whom I can support in return. I've found my squad of adventure seekers that bring me to tear-inducing laughter and who let me stay inside to climb when I'm too much of a pansy to take on the elements (i.e., wind, because wind is the absolute worst). I'm surrounded by people whose example of embracing weirdness has made me more comfortable with my inner nerd that only I and a handful of other people think is knee-slapping hilarious. These people, within this unique valley, are my people, my confidants, my wonderful ragamuffin friends. These people have gotten me through the dread of winter and this year's snowpocalypse solely with their friendship and have given me hope for greater days to come. And every single time I think about leaving them and the awesomeness they bring to my life, I am filled with an ironic sense of foreboding joy.
On the other hand, half of my heart is in the Pacific Northwest, with a man I like so much that I'm willing to move halfway across the country so we can finally reduce our 1,200 mile distance relationship to double digit mileage. He reentered my life at a point where I honestly thought I was going to end up as a crazy dog lady, living vicariously through my friends' relationships and marriages while I focused on achieving my dreams and taking care of my beagles. As my relationships in Crested Butte grew, so did ours, but where I have been able to be fully present with my friends and my job and life in the mountains, I have missed out on a lot of the important aspects of developing a romantic relationship. Like making new friends as a couple and going on double dates (although we have been known to both third wheel on dates at the same time, so we're going on distance triple-dates? If that logic even makes sense) and spending time getting to know each other on a deeper level than a phone or video chat call can warrant. Though I know I can handle the distance and I know it has strengthened our relationship, my heart still aches for the simplicity of his presence, especially when I get to witness my friends visiting their boyfriends at work or getting to spend quality time together with their husbands after church. There are days when I go home from third wheeling totally joyful, but simultaneously overcome with the disappointment that I don't get to live my life with the man I want to share it with. And even though I look forward to the day where I can do all the cute couple-y things like going on dates and holding hands and making friends, I dread the part that means I will be choosing to leave my amazing friends and family behind.
Both lives are equally vulnerable. Sharing hopes, dreams, laughter, and life with any other person is an act of vulnerability. When those people are in different places, it can feel even riskier, because you don't know where to prioritize your time and energy. I don't want to lose out on the richness of each experience with my friends here because I'm caught up in my boyfriend's life, but I don't want to put off the importance of our life together because I'm too absorbed with what is going on in my surroundings.
Being in the position where I am planning to leave within the next 6 months compounds my dilemma of choice: Here or there? Him or them?
A few young women and I began a weekly ladies group a couple months ago so we could build a community of friends in similar life stages that we could go to and feel comfortable with at any time. After my last visit with Nathan in February, I expressed my emotional hesitancy with them: I don't want to invest fully in this group because I know that deepening our friendships is going to make my departure so much more painful than I want it to be. I know that I will be torn between staying and leaving, because while I want to pursue my boyfriend, I have worked so hard to find these friendships here that I don't want to let them go. At the same time, I can't totally check out, because I need to have a supportive group of friends, and can't allow my relationship with my boyfriend to take all precedence over this commitment I have made to be there for my people at all times. Though this was months ago, fresh after my decision to move to Washington upon the end of my contract, the sentiment still stands.
It is the most vulnerable to be fully present with my friends while looking toward moving forward with my boyfriend. Both require me to show up and be bold in expressing my flaws, my heart, my weirdness to the people that have become the backbone of my life, knowing that this season of life will come to pass and I will eventually have to move on. Every single Thursday my friends and I spend sitting on each others' couches and every Friday I spend hanging with my pastor's wife is 1,000 more tears that I am going to cry when I leave this place. And every day I spend away from my boyfriend is another day of deep yearning to experience life with him. If I choose not to move, I lose him. If I choose to move, I lose them. It's a painful space to inhabit, knowing that I selfishly can't have all my people in this place I love and call home forever.
But the beauty of this vulnerability is that I will never lose these friendships, despite the distance. My relationship with Nathan has showed me that already. Though miles may separate us, the bonds I have made with my friends here can withstand the distance and the time spent apart. There will be more summer days spent mountain biking Lupine Trail and winter days bombing down International with these people. I can always come back to this place that's become my home, to the people that have become my family.
My predicament becomes, then, less of a choice, and more of an attitude. What do I do? How do I proceed?
Proceed with grace.
Though I tend to see things this way, life is not a collection of black-and-white situations. Yes, that would make a lot of things simpler. But the gray area allows me space to give myself grace to pursue a relationship with the man I love. That doesn't make me a bad friend. That doesn't mean I'm abandoning my people. Grace is the attitude that acknowledges that this is all hard, no matter what happens, but that every single moment I spent laughing till the tears came or listening to my friends pour out their hearts was worth being present for, because it has made our friendships able to withstand the distance.
Grace says that there will come a time when I will most likely leave this little valley, and that it will be hard regardless of when that time comes, but that doesn't mean I can't enjoy this special pocket of joy while it is here. Grace allows me to think bigger, to know that there are other relationships to create in different places, to know that every relationship allows me a place to visit in the years to come, whether that's Gunnison, Birmingham, Boston, Edinburgh, Memphis, or Madison. Since college, people and relationships have ebbed and flowed in and out of my life, and in all reality, moving is a part of life at this point. That does not lessen the importance of any of these experiences, places, or people, though. If anything, it teaches me to be more appreciative for what I have in the moment, because if we're not present or vulnerable with the people we love, are we really living up to our full potential to love and be loved?
In the midst of this internal emotional chaos, I know that grace, vulnerability, and love are what truly matter. I am who I am because of the people who are - and have been - part of my life. And I will become who I will become because of the people who will be part of my life in the coming seasons of life. Moving on will never become easier, but the amazing memories of laughter and tears and vulnerability and sipping wine on my bed make it easier to appreciate the place I am in today, knowing that I will never lose my wonderful people no matter where I go.