Leaving Home


Kevin Lentz, 131 YinD

December, 14th 2018 (10 months ago)

It’s my last weekend living in DC. Laying on my air mattress in the stillness of my dilapidated apartment, I lazily contemplate the weekend that so fast arrived. How do I say goodbye to all these people? How can I make this weekend special? My mind moves over these questions as slowly as the snow idly falling outside my window. Thankfully, the jingle of keys and loud creaking of old floorboards releases me from this thankless train of thought. 

Sean’s stride acknowledges the joy of the finished workweek. Shaking off the last of the cold from his jacket and beanie, he cocks his head into my bedroom. 

“Oh man, you haven’t even started packing!” he said with his usual smirk that slides up one side of his face, “You know, if I was leaving for two years, I’d be freaking out.”

“I still have two weeks in Georgia for all my packing and freaking out to happen,” I said, “Besides, Erica’s coming this weekend.”

“Oh, she’s getting here soon? We should all hang given it’s your last few days here. But of course, I understand if y’all want your own space,” Sean replied as he shot me a knowing look.

“I’m actually about to walk to Chinatown to wait on her bus, but we’ll definitely hangout. I’ll pick up some brews on my way back,” I answered to casually avoid Sean’s intimated question: How was I going to handle the last weekend together with these people who mean so much to me? 

I feel a rush of excitement as I grab my beanie, winter jacket and last cigarette. I always do my best thinking while walking in the cold, and with the prospect of answering this weighty question, my jaw slowly unclenches. Opening the door, I look down North Capitol St. NW with the capitol building looming at its far end. The evening’s invading the darkening street, and cold is replacing whatever warmth there had been. A few houses feebly hold up their lights towards the night in defense, but it is here to stay. Lighting my cigarette, I start my walk along the lonely road now shining with melted snow. 

How do you properly tell someone how much they mean to you, and then, turn around to leave for two years? I search for the answer in the smoke of my exhale and come up with nothing. As I pass the homeless shelter next to my apartment building, the street lights come on illuminating the many moving figures on North Capitol tonight. They stay close together, congregating around the bus stops that provide shelter against the cold and snow. The light adorns their features with long shadows, and in the ambiguity, I imagine some of them to resemble friends and family. I can’t help but wonder where they would go if there was no shelter, bus stations or other humans to lessen their burden. A wave rises in my heart as I brush past them and think about not being here.

The recurring thought seeps back into my consciousness: How will you leave all your friends and family for two years to move thousands of miles away for an idealistic dream? I rack my brain for phrases and vocabulary that can explain everything I’m feeling, but nothing is remotely adequate for crossing this current of emotions. I want to properly credit my parents for all the sacrifices they’ve made on my behalf. I want to tell my older brother that I strive to have even half of his indefatigable tenacity towards his goals. I want to thank my friends for all the things they did to help raise me. The wave that rose in my heart now threatens to pull me out to sea as I realize there is no ready-made solution for this type of thing. I pass by the Government Printing Office on my right. Ten more minutes until the bus stop.

October 2nd, 2019

Sitting in my new home reading over these notes, I can’t help but realize the world of difference ten months can make on my perception of the simple word “leave.” As you probably guessed, I never found that ready-made solution for how to say goodbye. I’m doubtful that there is some perfect way to handle such a unique and emotional situation. However, I’ve come to realize that all these goodbyes are temporary and leaving is only partly physical.   

During the tribulations inherent in adjusting to a completely new way of life, my mind often moves to the memories of my friends and family for moments of respite. In holding their image close, I’m able to recollect moments of strength, happiness and belonging. It is these cherished memories that help me through some of the most difficult days. This practice, along with being physically deprived of my friends and family, fosters a new appreciation for the fact that love transcends distance. 

On most days, I have no idea what my friends and family are doing or even where exactly they are, but it ceases to matter for love goes far beyond the physical body of the beloved. The deepest meaning of love is found in the spiritual being or soul and physical presence is not needed for this. Even though I seldom get to talk with or see friends and family, my thoughts and images of them are stronger than ever. If anything, distance has given me cause to appreciate my relationships on a deeper level and explore the truth behind the quote, “Set me like a seal upon thy heart, for love is as strong as death.”

So as you prepare for leaving on this so far indescribable experience, say your goodbyes and let loved ones know how much they matter, but also know that it is a temporary thing, and no matter where they are, they never really “leave” you.

Read Kevin’s previous articles and contributions.

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