On Leaving (and Coming Home)

“I am grateful to have been loved and to be loved now and to be able to love, because that liberates. Love liberates. It doesn’t just hold—that’s ego. Love liberates. It doesn’t bind. Love says, ‘I love you. I love you if you’re in China. I love you if you’re across town. I love you if you’re in Harlem. I love you. I would like to be near you. I’d like to have your arms around me. I’d like to hear your voice in my ear. But that’s not possible now, so I love you. Go.’” – Maya Angelou

Since the summer I turned 17, my life has been a series of comings and goings. My first time leaving home for an extended period of time was in July 2009, where I attended a month-long theater conservatory two hours away. Then, when I was 18, I left New Jersey to go to college in upstate New York. In both cases, I was more than ready to leave the suburban bubble I grew up in and see the world, not really thinking about what and who I was leaving behind. When I was 20, I left for France for the first time with the comfortable notion that I would be home at the end of the semester. And two years later, I went back to France with the same comfortable notion, though the time of return was significantly further away.

I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to live in so many places and meet all different kinds of people. However, in my wild dreams of adventure and ambition, I rarely thought about the people I was leaving behind.

In the coming weeks, several good friends, including my own sister, will be leaving the New York metropolitan area to pursue the next step in their education and/or careers. Most likely, I won’t see some of them for many months or years. In past situations, I could handle the separation easily because more often than not, I would be leaving too; graduation never really affected me because I was so focused on where I was going next. This time was different. They were leaving for an extended period of time. I was staying with no immediate prospect of leaving.

It is always easier to leave than to be left behind.

After I left book club Tuesday night, this crushing realization moved me to tears. I was angry with God and with myself. I felt like I was being punished for my insatiable wanderlust and my disregard for the sacrifices made by my family and friends, especially my parents, so I could travel. I wondered if I had thrown away relationships and opportunities at home, and if I had made the right decision in leaving at all.

As I stood on line for the bus, I saw a familiar face a few people behind me. It was the face of a high school friend I hadn’t spoken to in years. Both of us, in our turn, had left our hometown for college, study abroad and different jobs. Now, we had returned. We spent the whole ride catching up, talking about old times and books and current plans, and parted with hopes of seeing each other again. As she got off the bus, I thought of the other friends I had made and remade since coming home, of the opportunies I’ve had in New York, and of my growing relationship with my family. I knew that I was back in New Jersey because there was something for me to do here.

A voice in my heart spoke to me and said, “You see, you of little faith? I am not taking these people away from you. I am calling them to something greater. Do you think it was easy for all the people in your life to let you go? No. They didn’t let you go because they didn’t care; they did it because they love you. My question to you is: do you love your friends enough to let them go?”

I did. I do love my friends and my sister well enough to let them go. Go ahead and laugh and say, “Well that’s the harsh reality of life.” However, I’ve found that merely accepting reality does nothing to relieve the bitter flavor of the situation. Responding to a situation with unconditional love does. Since I have received such unconditional love and support from my family and friends for any adventure I felt called to chase, I can do nothing but the same for anyone else.

Love does not hold. Love liberates. So I love you. Go, and I will stay.

A plus!


– Vicky

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Dear Class of 2016: Be a Work in Progress

Dear Class of 2016,

First of all, congratulations! You’ve probably been hearing that a lot lately, whether in person or in a card, and the well-wishes are probably oozing out of your ears. But seriously, take a moment today to say, “Yes, I did it.” I know you’ve just finished finals, res life is kicking you out of your dorm in 6 hours and you definitely don’t have enough boxes for all your stuff. But amid all the craziness, take a moment for yourself to soak in and remember the day by.

OK, that was the preliminary advice. Now for the actual point of this letter: be a work in progress. Yes, you’ve worked hard and accomplished amazing things, but you’re only at the beginning. And despite what you might tell yourself, it’s OK to not have it all together. It’s OK to be scared, confused, and anxious about your future. Not having a job or internship lined up after graduation doesn’t make you a failure. Delaying further education doesn’t make you unfocused. Taking a gap year doesn’t make you lazy (just ask Malia Obama.) And on the other side of the spectrum, it’s OK if your first job or grad school program isn’t right for you. Don’t measure your self-worth based on where you think you should be at this point in your life. You are more than your resume.

So what do I mean when I say “be a work in progress”? I mean that you should allow yourself to explore, grow, make mistakes, and change your mind. Nobody has it all figured out. And if you think you have it all figured out now, you’ll be amazed at how quickly and radically your plans can change. Being a work in progress does not make you a failure, or unfocused, or lazy. It makes you human. Even the top professionals in any field, who have decades of experience, are constantly growing and working toward the next goal.

Be a work in progress. Take a step toward your next goal every day, even if it is a very small step, like sending out three job applications or putting aside just a small amount for an apartment or for grad school. Make it a concrete step, not just a thought, but an action. Don’t be too proud to ask for help. You are not alone. Your small efforts will add up and you will start to see progress.

Be a work in progress. When you wake up every morning, try to be a more patient, more generous, more loving person than you were the day before. It is never too late to try again, but that doesn’t mean it will be easy. It will be difficult, especially when everyone else around you is becoming more self-serving. But it is not impossible.

Be a work in progress. Don’t compare yourself to others. I know it’s tempting to social media stalk all your classmates and see if your accomplishments measure up to theirs. Don’t do it. If you find yourself scrolling through picture after picture of your friend’s chic apartment in a new city, step away. It’s OK to ask your friends about their post-grad plans, but that conversation is a lot better to have in a private message or even *gasp* in person. Trust me, I am not a social media hater; in fact, I probably spend way too much time on it. But as most of us have figured out, Instagram stalking is not the best confidence booster. As my best friend always tells me, “You have done enough. You are enough.”

Be a work in progress. Surround yourself with other works in progress. Inspire each other and cheer each other on.

In a world that constantly demands a finished product, be brave. Be a work in progress.

A bientot!

– Vicky

Congratulations to the Class of 2016, especially my sister, who graduated two weeks ago, and my cousin, graduating this weekend.