Sunday, May 4, 2014

This is a Sacred Space: A Letter About Leaving

I was asked to write to the current class of Episcopal Urban Interns, the program I participated in the first year in lived in California. The program director wanted us alumni to share insights with those who are nearing the end of their time in the program, and for most of them, in Los Angeles. These are things I've been thinking about, considering my own current circumstances. Here are my thoughts on the matter, less than two months out from the Great California Escape, as it's been named.

Hello Current EUIs! 

My name is Katy Cashman and I came to Los Angeles from Minnesota to participate in the program in 2011-12. I lived in the Glendale House and worked at a food pantry in Pasadena, and I have ended up staying here in Los Angeles for 2 more years since finishing the Episcopal Service Corps. I remember well the time in which I was about to leave the program, especially because I am also currently going through the transition of leaving: I'm moving back to Minnesota at the end of June, so I am also in a stage of reflection, reassessing, anticipating and beginning the process of saying goodbye while also trying to remain present.

Leaving is one of the strangest, saddest things. Even when we are happy or ready to go. Especially when we do not feel like an experience is quite over. These are sacred and emotion-filled times, when we are forced into reflection of what has been good, and bad, and are contending with the fact that all at once we are in control but completely out of control of our own lives. We celebrate, mourn and praise God for what we are leaving. Here we all stand on the precipice of another great adventure and another great leaving and it's different for everyone, but I encourage us all to be quiet for a moment, love what has been and what will be. The challenge can be to accept and honor the beauty of what an experience has been, whether awful, lovely, boring or transcendent. Whether we feel we have done everything we wanted or could. We are leaving something, even if we are staying in town.

I do admit that I always ached to get away from where I was. I have lived in a lot of different cities, traveled through more countries and I'm now backpacking through Europe for the next 7 months to finish my book. I'm a wanderer, but this space of change is not one I can say I enjoy at all, though I am learning to appreciate it. 

For a long time, when approaching the end of an experience, I would try my best to run backwards, push time aside and recreate all of the moments I was heartbroken to leave behind.  I would stand at the end of something, holding my empty hands opened and shuddering with all of the things that I felt rushing from me, never to be felt again. Now I worry that I’m beginning to get really good at leaving. 

When ending important things I’ve scared people I love with my supposed distance. I’m usually so emotional, they feel cheated by my acceptance of the fact that all good things pass from us at some point only to transform into other good and bad things. There was a day, right before I left Yellowstone National Park, where I waitressed for a summer and met one of my best friends who at the time I was convinced I’d never see again, that Lauren and I snuck into the closed side of the Yellowstone Canyon and at the top of the lower falls we lay on the ground, our feet suspended thousands of feet in the air. We were 19, and felt the weight of the entire world upon us, all the sorrows and joys and experiences that were to come to us looked down from the sky that day and winked as the sun set. I’ve never felt so ready to take on the world, and so scared to leave a meaningful experience all at once.

As for today, I trust that I can leave the relationships I’ve formed and honor them by knowing the blessing they have been, whether or not I ever see some of my favorite people here again. I’ve learned to trust that this is alright – that there is nothing wrong with moving beyond one part of your life and into another and that sometimes it is important to feel the whole weight of the world fall on you, while you cling to the hands of your best friends, kissing them goodbye.

Love and blessings to all of you during this time of transition. I'll be thinking of you, and I hope you will do the same for me. 

- Katy
The wish lantern Sarah, Hannah, Christina and I released at the end of our intern year to
celebrate all that had we had experienced together and all that was coming to us. 

Help fund my artistic journey through Northern Ireland where I will be researching and finishing my book, working title Dear Bird for 3-4 months. Learn more about my campaign and donate here. Thank you!

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