These are the words my best friend wrote in a Christmas letter to me a few months ago, and I think she knew. She knew that bravery is much more than a fighting smile – because bottom lips quiver and smiles fade. She knew during the minutes, moments, hours when my heart was aching that I would need those 7 little letters.
Be brave, be brave, be brave.
Most days, I am brave. But yesterday was not one of those days.
I think everyone in Scotland knew how excited I was to skype my Matthew on his birthday and yet when we finally connected and I could see his face, I fell to pieces. I was so frustrated with myself for killing the b-day spirit, but ugly crying was on the agenda and that was that.
There really is an actual ache you feel when separated from the ones you love. It’s heavy and settles in the empty spaces and yes how wonderful it is to have something to ache for, but how difficult, too.
Homesickness and lovesickness are peculiar house guests who don’t knock, barging right in and taking rooms you weren’t ready to surrender.
After an incredible birthday celebration of my own earlier this week, I felt so smothered in kindness by my new Scottish friends that I never saw my meltdown coming.
I’m settled! I proudly declared to my bible study group on Thursday.
The more I think about it, that isn’t accurate at all. I have put down roots. I have tethered myself to friends and community and favourite study spots. But I am not settled. Until I get home, I will be quite unsettled simply because I know myself. Studying abroad has made me realize that I am a shameless homebody. A small town girl with dreams to change not the whole world but little pieces of it, one at a time…alongside the people I love most.
Which is why when I finally looked at Matt through puffy eyes and a sea of tissues we could both be brave together and say this sucks.
We’ve come to the conclusion that we may be good at long distance, but we don’t like it.
And how selfish that feels!
Longing for home will actually make you feel like the whiniest being on planet earth. I’ve had that fight with myself over and over again: Amy. BE BRAVE. There are opportunities for the seizing, woman. Get yourself together. Jump out of bed. Rejoice in a new day!
It is a privilege to study at a prestigious university, I don’t think anyone studying abroad doubts that.
It’s just that the foreignness of navigating life on your own is uncomfortable.
When you’ve met the one, how do you suddenly re-meet your alone self? The version of you who walks into restaurants as one person, not two…the version who actually drools over couples holding hands because the lack of physical touch you have in a new place is surprisingly depressing. (Really though, when you’re surrounded by strangers all you want is for someone to hug you, just like your mom does, and tell you that you can conquer the world.)
Of course, I am learning lessons through all of this – it is not an aimless battle I am fighting.
I’ve grown. I’m becoming best friends with patience. My faith is ten times stronger because some days it is all I have. I am forming a strange relationship with solitude…we don’t know quite what to make of each other, but we’ll get there. I have a support network and a God who never fails me.
Be brave, be brave, be brave.
I cried my heart out to Matt and he took it like a champ. Even though we both wanted to reach through the screen, we couldn’t, and that is a continuing lesson in itself.
Had I known that I would be engaged when I applied for my Scottish adventure, I don’t know that I would have gone through with it all. The Atlantic Ocean is no joke. It is big and wide and deep and far. My future husband is on the other side. My family is on the other side. My best friends are on the other side. Naturally I want to be there too.
What they don’t tell you about long distance is that admitting you want to be home is not a failure on your part. No, it is honesty on your part. The fact that your feet are planted in the ground miles away from all that is comfortable is bravery.
I’ve toyed with the idea of bailing out…oh how tempting that is. Except there is nothing brave about escape. Being brave is having the courage to say today, I am not okay. Today, I need to whine about missing home. Today, I am thankful for the gift of life…only life feels daunting right now and a hug would be nice.
What they don’t tell you about long distance is that there will be days when you don’t want to leave your bed. There will also be days when you feel guilty for loving your new view. There will be days when you cannot stand the different time zone. Days when you feel strong and days when you do not. There may be days when you feel desperately lonely but there can be days when you find yourselves laughing together like fools from your separate corners of the world.
After “be brave,” my best friend also wrote something else:
“Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you.” 1 Chronicles 28:20
Being brave is not about fighting alone. When you are transparent with one another, burdens are lifted and oceans start to feel a bit smaller.