Reflections on a New Chapter
So here we are. I’m sitting in the Africa terminal of the Brussels airport waiting for the final leg of my journey to Freetown. This trip has been 4 months in the making and it’s hard to believe the day has actually arrived.
After saying many goodbyes in the last 2 months (and some over and over again) I kept reflecting on the concept of family and the blessings I’ve been so fortunate to experience in life. I always find it extremely difficult to come and go from a place, where you bond so closely with people that they become a sort of family to you but then you must leave them for what you are destined to do next. Having experienced this too many times to count, each departure is increasingly more difficult, and this one seems very different.
There is the family you were born with, and have a lifelong connection with, and that is where home is regardless of geography. I couldn’t have asked to be born into a better family, one that is so loving and supporting of seemingly crazy dreams. One that worked so hard to provide us with the privilege of never having to worry about education and following our heart – even when it means leaving home. I am blessed to have the parents and grandparents that made my life possible and filled it with unconditional love and the values of kindness and compassion.
Then there are the families you fall into. My high school crew was probably the first of these – some of us having been together since grade 4! No matter where we all went for school or ended up, we make an effort to see each other as frequently as possible. Thankfully most of you guys still live pretty close to home!
Then there were the families formed during undergrad – our ‘future eco village crew’ (you know who you are), the IMSA/ISA crews, the many close friends and mentors formed over my years at Guelph – essentially my first Guelph extended family. Graduating was extremely challenging for me as it meant we were all leaving the home we knew so well and moving to different cities, provinces and countries and would probably never hang out in the same way again.
Luckily I stayed in Guelph and found an entirely new family at OVC. We shared class every day from 8-5 for four years and formed some extremely close and lifelong bonds – and most of all some hilarious memories. Again, graduating meant we all went to our respective homes or new homes to start our new careers and would likely never all be together in the same place again.
And then there are your work families. Everyone has these the people you work with on a daily basis who often know you better than you know yourself. The zoo was my first work family and leaving that place was like leaving a piece of me behind. My clinical rotations, although only a few weeks at the longest, provided the opportunity to bond with some pretty amazing people who became like family to me at the time, and many of whom continue to be an important part of my life. And to my Story Book family, it’s been 9 years and we’ve changed and evolved so much but you we’re the beginning of this path I’m on, and I’m forever indebted to my monkey moms!
And finally one of the best for last. A shout out to my crew at NVS – I’m actually tearing up right now. I remember when I arrived and I had all these friends all over the place and was amazed at the concept of work friends being your only and closest friends. I never thought I’d feel as close to ‘work friends’ away from home as I did my other ‘families’. Little did I know you guys would take me in and become one of the best families in my life. You taught me so much about life. It is so hard to leave knowing that we may not share that bond in the same way again. I will forever miss you guys like crazy and will always visit when I’m in town!
And there are so many more – Oshawa Fam, JGI, Roots & Shoots, Save the Chimps, travel companions and those met abroad, etc etc. We come and go in each others ‘ lives in the pursuit of our own happiness. It is easy to get lost in the goal of what we are trying to achieve, but it is the pursuit that is actually most important. One of the greatest gifts I have is the ability to form such close relationships with people even in a short span of time – so much so that even if you don’t know it – I consider you family. One of my many extended families. And that makes it surreal to just up and leave because as Lilo and Stitch said, you never leave family behind. I will always return to my biological family, but as I sit here I ponder on the fact that all my other families and are so constantly dynamic. What is beautiful about this is that you each have contributed something special to my life that changed me, some piece that I will take with me forever, wherever I go, even if we don’t see each other for long periods of time. And I hope I have done the same for you, as that is the beauty of the human connection. I love following each and every one of you and it is heartwarming to witness your major life events and little everyday happiness and successes.
So it is with extreme nostalgia and wonder that I sit here thinking of the next family I will be a part of at Tacugama, and the family I am starting when I eventually return home, and what that will mean for the transformation of myself as my human connection evolves. No longer a young idealistic university student in a small town, I must learn to accept that life as a mature international citizen means forming and breaking bonds over and over again as one comes and goes, and accept that change is inherently beautiful.
But most importantly, the lesson here is to savour every moment. No moment ever comes twice. No feeling is identical. The destination will always be there but it is fluid, and can only be enjoyed if you enjoy the journey and recognize that even your original destination might just be one step on this constantly evolving journey.
Blessed to be a part of your lives
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