Thursday, May 25, 2006

A long post about change

I’m not good with change. Actually, I AM good with change, just not when it comes to people leaving. This is why the majority of people in my life have been there for a loooooong time. If we’re friends, you’re in. As long as you don’t do something that’s a friendship deal-breaker, you’re in for good. However, if you lie to me or betray my trust, we’re going to have a problem.

But that’s not what we’re talking about right now. We’re talking about change.

So in my time as a “professional role model” to the kids in the youth group, I’ve come to know a few of them really well. We’ve spent hours in the van, evenings looking up at the stars in Juarez and Montana, and days on the work sites. We’ve worked, we’ve played, we’ve laughed until we cried and we’ve cried until we laughed.

My first trip with the kids was in 2003, when we went to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. This was a huge thing for me –WAY outside my comfort zone. Why? I was scared to death that the kids wouldn’t like me. I knew most of them in passing, but except for my brother, I wasn’t pals with any of them. I remember the first person who made me feel like maybe I wasn't a huge dork – it was Mandy. She was so quiet, but would talk to me. By the end of the trip, I felt that even if I hadn’t totally infiltrated the group, at least they didn’t think I was totally lame.

The next summer was our first trip to Juarez. By that time, I knew everyone a little better and even though I’m probably not supposed to, I developed favorites. Mandy was one – really, how could I NOT love her? She’s super smart and in the past couple of years, I’ve watched her struggle and I’ve watched her succeed. It’s been so great. Because she deserves the best things. Mollie was one – she’s the one who is friends with EVERYONE, even the inevitable weird kid who annoys the crap out of everyone else the entire trip. But Mollie can find the good in them and they know that her kindness is genuine. She’s so cool – she makes you laugh, but she’s also a deep kind of smart that makes you think. She’s got an older soul than most people her age. And Dane is one – he’s like my younger brother. I can’t say “little”, because he’s almost a foot taller than me. Anyway. He’s like a really large, really hyper puppy. He’s all over the place, and by the end of a trip, he’ll have had a long conversation with someone he didn’t really know before and he’ll like them. Dane wears his heart on his sleeve, and he sees the good in people first -- he only ever sees the bad if they end up hurting him. I’ve watched him grow from an obnoxious 14 year old that I couldn’t stand into an amazing 18 year old who is like my family.

Last summer was my last trip with Mandy and Mollie, because they graduated from high school. I remember bawling the night before we got home, because even though we knew we’d see each other plenty, this was our last trip together. It was sad, because the trips are such experiences. We spend 24/7 with our group and we learn and do so much… I can’t even begin to explain it. Anyway, it’s true. I do see them – I see Mandy at church every week and I see Mollie for dinner, or I see both of them when they come to hang out at my house. So the change there hasn’t been that hard, because they’re still around. This summer’s trip will be so different without them, though.

This summer is my last trip with Dane. And as much as I know that I’ll see him and talk to him after he goes to college, it's still sad. And I worry about him. I worry that he’ll lose that quality of seeing the good in people after he gets hurt one too many times. I worry that he’ll make stupid decisions (as he is apt to do) that will get him hurt or worse. I worry that in his effort to be a friend to everyone, he’ll lose himself in trying to please them. He has such a good heart – he’s kind and loving and loyal and that’s not something you always see in teenage boys. It may be there, but it’s hidden. Not this boy – he is all those things and lays it all on the table.

The reason I worry about him the most is because I know he’s scared of change as well. Last summer at camp, we were doing this kind of quiet reflective activity, and Dane came over and sat next to me, buried his face in my neck and cried and cried. He was already thinking about this summer – and how after this summer, everything changes. He’s scared to lose the people in his life that love him and who he loves. The world could end, the sky could fall, but none of that would be half as devastating to him as losing someone he loves. That's one reason I understand him so well -- I fear that too.

So yeah. Change. At this time last year, the tears would sneak up on me whenever I’d think about my two girls graduating and moving on. And this year, the tears start when I think about my boy graduating. I’m so happy for them, because I know that they have so much cool stuff to do and see and it’s exciting to move forward. But as cliché as it may sound, I’m sad because I lose a piece of me when they leave.

17 comments:

Cheryl said...

Aw, what a sweet post. I know change is difficult, I also have trouble dealing with it. No one really likes change, I think people resist it. But it's so sweet to see what you mean to these kids and what they mean to you. I think they'll be fine, because you're still there for them, even if it's in a different way.

The Husband said...

that was very touching. while those 3 are moving on...aren't there other younger folks you can work with an mentor?

ps- i heart carrie underwood.

Whinger said...

Oh I always think of change as good, but that IS sad. I guess it's good that they're heading out into their lives, right? Right?

I don't know.

Alice said...

aw.. that was a lovely post. i hate that part of life too. the highschool i went to was a boarding school, and even though a lot of my friend were day students (like me) we each still came pretty far to get there each day, not all coming from the same neighborhood or district or anything. and some of our boarding friends came from REALLY far, like tahiti. so graduation was really emotional, knowing that we probably WOULDN'T all see each other together again. sucks. :-( but when we do see each other.. it's like no time has passed :-) so, um, all that rambling was meant to say: yeah, ick on the change. but at least when you really do connect with another person, you don't have to lose that connection over time and distance.

dasi said...

It’s not cliché, it’s the truth. Change is something I have always had a love/hate relationship with as well – especially when it comes to “losing” people. I think the main thing to remember is that everyone in your life is there for a reason, and even if they do grow and move on, well… that’s the sucky part. Sometimes people drift apart even though initially they were super close due to a new job, a residential move, leaving school, etc. Although their intentions are good (“You’ll call, right? Dinner? Drinks? Keep in touch!”) sometimes they don’t always pan out, really through nobody’s fault. Yet you can keep the memories and a piece of that person in your heart forever.

The kids sound great – and I’m sure all of you learned a lot from each other. And I’m also sure they will thrive in the big bad world since you gave them the courage and self-esteem through your words and actions as their counselor to be strong young adults. See? Change – love it/hate it… happy/sad.

-J said...

I have the most interesting experiences with my RSS reader sometimes. I will think that I am reading something written by someone else, and be so blwon away by the different style the author is using and how powerful and awesome it is. Like they are revealing, suddenly, a whole other side of themselves. Then I realize who actually wrote it and it's not so shocking anymore.

Good post.

Hope said...

Dane looks exactly like one of my old housemates, Justin. Weird.

Change is bad, but you are SO lucky to have so many people that you care about so much. I truly mean that.

Hope said...

Wait, I didn't mean to say "change is bad." That's silly. Change is inevitable. I meant to say, "change sucks sometimes." Hehe.

Miladysa said...

It has all been said above :)
(Hugs)

Edge said...

The more I read your stuff the more I realize we are very much alike.

I hate people leaving. Drives me nuts.

I know exactly where Dane is about leaving. It bothered me to leave the comfortable.

I've learned that change isn't always bad, but sometimes it can turn out to be something really great. It comes down to attitude and lately my changes have elicited a bad attitude in me. The more I change my attitude the better it gets.

~Jef

Mr. Fabulous said...

What a great post that was, and what a great role model you are. I was very touched by this, truly.

Sass said...

oh goodness amber. I usually see your new posts pop up and jump right to them. But this one, i hesitated at clicking on and as the tears stroll down my face, i know why.

Change isn't always a bad thing, but it also means growth.

lil'bitty said...

Change is bad. . . we fear change. Be afraid of the change. Run from it or it will infiltrate every part of your life and rui. . . . I was trying out a pessimistic vibe, and it just isn't me. Sorry.
Change can be scary, believe you me, if the last 9 months is any indication - life is all about the change. But that can be really good too, new friends (to keep with the old ones) just think about when you girls or your boy get married (proud aunt ambs) graduate college (that proud thing) get hammered on rum and cokes (not so proud, but very supportive). I know change is scary, but embrace the possibilities and don't mourn the loss.

Leesa said...

Change can be a wonderful thing, but when we lose people in our lives, it seems like change works against us somehow. Wonderful post.

Nicole said...

That's so awesome that you have such a close relationship with those kids. I believe that although they will miss you as much or possibly more than you will miss them, when you have that kind of relationship with someone, they never truly leave you. You are each a part of who the other has become along the way. And the memories of how you got there are the lasting kind.

Amanda said...

i'm a'hankerin' for a change right now. but i think it's internal, rather than the physical need for something to drastically change...i agree, we all kind of fear that by nature. though sometimes it exciting.

i love love love you new-(ish) pictie! you look great!

Marissa said...

What a beautiful post...