the leaving.

“Burn it all.”

That’s what I keep saying to people. Burn all of it. I’ll leave tomorrow with the clothes on my back and the books in my car if it means I don’t have to decide anything about another possession again. But I guess tomorrow is closer than I think even though I’ve been saying that for months. My Waco-days are dwindling– I count about seven left across the next few weeks of traveling.

I hate packing.

I hate that I have accumulated so much stuff, brought on by my distraction of being, but mostly I hate that I am faced with it. That I am faced with the leaving at all. That I have more worthless things than icons of the ones that really matter. 

And I hate that I cannot remember the exact thing the prof said in class that day–

Getting rid of all your crap doesn’t mean anything unless you are willing to do something about the shit that encrusts your heart.

Something like that. I really don’t know where to start with either.

I am angry that I am stuffing in another scarf and not one more hurried-but-sweet friend-lunch between classes, or folding another damn V-neck T-shirt and not a thousand heart-talks passed over our cups as the sprinkles melt into the ice cream. I’m packing books I should have read this summer, and dates I should have made with people I love along with them. The books I can read later. The rest I am unsure of. Do I make long-distance promises to people I forgot to call when they were down the street? The question itself breaks my heart.

And then there’s the muscle memory to release, the ten thousand past selves playing scenes over and over in that one coffeeshop, in that one corner of campus I swore I’d never forget, in that one tree that accosts me even though I made it no such vow.

I know I am not the only one to have ever left a place I really love, but God, it’s the first time I’ve had to.


About a year ago, I bought a library stamp for all my books. It seemed very important at the time to do this, to not only mark possession, but also place in the sum of parts. Somehow the composite collection was to make a sort of home. It seems pathetic at the end of the day, because it’s just a little front of control, I suppose. In truth, those books are ultimately not a monument to the information I have accumulated, but to the transformation that they offered. They mark the distance from one point to the next. They are almost as good as diaries.

But still, I find myself wanting to take another library, of memories, to take with me, to stamp my name in them. Maybe then I won’t lose them. And even if I do, at least the person who finds them will know to return them to me.

With every stamp, I yell, “MINE,” like the child.


I grew up with only one recurring dream (if you don’t count the ocean-of-cats motif that somehow found its way into other nightmares).

I am on a field trip, and considering I was homeschooled for a long while, it’s a mystery as to how the images of a farmyard full of children and a yellow school bus with cracking plastic seats so vividly play out in my sleep. I am so happy to be at the farm (this is a true part– I will never remember my grandfather without thinking of sheep and cows). We laugh at the squealy pigs, we name them. We feed the goats.

But the chickens enrapture me. There are scads of newly hatched chicks, so fluffy you could die, and so when no one is looking, I stuff one into my jeans. 

I want the farm to be with me forever.

Somehow, I make it all the way back to the bus and halfway home with the chick undetected. I finally decide to release the little thing once I decide the bus has gone past the point of no return, and suddenly realize that I have instead.

I find the chick to be crushed and suffocated in my pocket.

And then I’d wake up.

I think that’s what I’m most afraid of. The leaving is hard, but I am more afraid of holding what I love most too closely, and that it will all die because of it.

I am afraid you will find me months from now sitting on a dirt road, with muck in my hair and mangled treasured things between all my fingers.


8 thoughts on “the leaving.

  1. Holy crap, Antonia! I don’t even know where to begin…

    Well, yes, I do. *hugs*

    For me, places and things have always been transient. Here today, gone tomorrow. I will bleed before I let go of friends though. Yet, I feel the guilt of letting the past two months of summer go wasted on TV instead of fighting to build deeper relationships. I feel the pain of knowing that I have friends, friends from churches past who were solid brothers and sisters. The same friends who I haven’t spoken with in years because life just moved on and I was thrust into a new community and they into another one as well. As much as I wish I could take those friends and pull them into my community now, or pick up my friends and migrate all of us to my old friends’ communities, as much as I want there to be this massive conglomeration of friends closer than family, I have to make peace with how God chooses to move.

    The reason I’m not as actively involved with those friends isn’t just because life moved on, it’s because God knew I needed both new and different people in my life to keep growing. God doesn’t just ordain the end of growth through community, He ordains the means as well. So, while you’re going through your “burn it all” thoughts, take heart in knowing that even though you wish you could rewind the clock, God has you right here, right now for a reason. I know you know this, and sometimes I feel stupid stating the obvious, but there it is anyway.

    Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him. Maybe seeing all of this is God’s grace toward you, allowing you to really rest in Him amidst all the “I wish” moments.

    Grace and peace.

    • obvious? meh. most of the most true things aren’t novel anyway! 🙂 you point out that tension well– the having the “burn it all” thoughts while knowing that we are held, that God’s presence is encompassing, that (to borrow from Rilke) “even when I don’t desire it // God is ripening.” I can grasp it intellectually, but knowing it most deeply means I have to be still for a time, to resist that restlessness. Thanks for stopping in, Don.

  2. Oh, friend. This ache is so hard. How do we hold it all? Hoping that somehow these days are marked by deep joy mingled, even if awkwardly, right in there amongst the grief. Lots of love to you in the midst of the move, Antonia.

    • I think these days are marked as such already, if I’m paying attention–The sorrow and joy brush up against one another, but we’ve talked about that before, I think. gratitude helps, strangely. I am not owed gifts, after all, and the fact that some were only for a time does not diminish their sweetness. thanks for stopping in here, Annie– I’ll carry the hopes and love.

    • I’d say “don’t be anxious” but that’s kindof part of the deal. I will say that despite all of the change, this first year out of college, and these first steps out of Waco have been really important and transformative. you will make it, Lu.

  3. Pingback: roots & wings. | stuff antonia says.

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