A few months have passed since I’ve been able to gather enough stillness to sit and write. Today, I am trying to hold that stillness, to honor it with reflection and words on paper.
Sixty days ago, I left Jordan. One-way ticket to Detroit in hand, I dragged two suitcases and a carry-on bag through Queen Alia International Airport. They contained everything that accompanied my life in Amman for the past two years. I had made the decision to leave the country only a few weeks prior. Every day leading up to my departure had been a race to close out commitments at work, say goodbye to loved ones, and set up infrastructure from afar for my new life in Chicago.
I spent my first week back in Michigan with family before packing up my life again, this time in a car, and driving five hours west. Back to the windy city where I had spent half a decade during college and graduate school. The roads were familiar; hundreds of miles of cement stretched flat against the plains of the midwest. Dense thickets of trees lining the way. I had forgotten how very green it is here, how easy it is to surround oneself in green. In Jordan, green was a color in limited supply, dwindling rapidly as one traveled from the north to the south of the country.
While driving on the highway I allowed my mind to wander. How do you feel? I asked myself. I tried to listen. I heard faint whispers from within:
Excited for the next chapter.
Shocked that one day of air travel is enough to transform the texture and topography of my life.
Mourning the end of an era, a time bound by people and places that will remain on the other side of this strange planet.
Alone in my car, I poked further at that last emotion. Hearts are not meant to be in so many places. My heart was still in Jordan. My heart was still in Michigan. My heart had remained in Chicago since the day I left it. Each hug goodbye, to friends in Amman, to family in Detroit, felt like a fracture. I am always leaving someone or something behind. There is a cost to all this leaving. We leave behind a piece of our hearts anywhere we dare to give and receive love.
It is a price I am willing to pay.
I steady my hands on the wheel, maintaining the pressure of my foot against the gas pedal.
But what is the reward?
I remember a few ideas that have moved me in the past. My friend Emily Robbins writing that we must grow our hearts. Susan Sontag’s conviction that life is not necessarily about happiness, but about becoming the largest, most inclusive, most responsive person possible.
Transitions hurt. They involve heartbreak. But maybe that pain signals growth, the growth of our hearts: Integrating pieces of others we met along the way, filling in holes from what we have left behind of our selves, expanding ever further into all we hope to be.