On celebrating change

[Author’s note: I know that this is the second sentimental post that I’ve written in a row, and I promise that I am not a giant sap ALL of the time, but this time of year and personal life events have me feeling all the feels. Please bear with me.]

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May is a month of change.

There’s a change in weather: from warm breezes hinting at the possibilities of summer to the thick, suffocating blanket of heat that begs you to find the nearest body of water and jump in immediately. There’s a shift in schedules and tempo, as the regular hum of the school year dissolves into hectic family road trips and lazy, unscheduled hours—the beautiful chaos of summer. (Even those who aren’t closely tied to a school schedule can feel it. The calendar may say it doesn’t technically start until June, but we all know summer begins in May.)

And then? There’s graduations. Weddings. Retirements. Birthdays. (I can’t be the only one who has about 10 close friends and family members with May birthdays.)

Under normal circumstances, May is a crazy, bittersweet month full of changes.

And this year, for me, wasn’t normal circumstances. For starters, last Saturday marked five years since I graduated from college—a fact that is nearly impossible to believe and entirely too much for me to fully process right now. But more importantly, one of my closest friends—the friend who is the entire reason I moved here, and who has been my partner in work projects and happy hours ever since—left Hartsville last weekend to start an exciting new job and a new chapter with her fiancé in Washington, D.C.

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It’s one of those inevitable, bittersweet life changes. One that you know is a positive and natural step…but is nevertheless hard to face. Leading up to her last weekend in Hartsville, I knew I would be so sad if I stopped and thought about her leaving—so instead, I threw myself into putting together her going-away celebrations. A cookout with our office! A farewell get-together at work! A big going-away party with wine and cake and presents!

Unsurprisingly, I cried a lot of tears last weekend. More surprisingly….only a few were out of sadness. Most were out of joy and gratitude for being lucky enough to have a friendship and a time in my life that are hard to let go. As it turns out, by thinking so much about what there was to celebrate, I didn’t leave much room for feeling sad.

And I realized something. As a planner, I tend to live in the future. My eyes and my mind are trained on the road ahead, always wrapped up in possibilities and eager for what’s next. While I do feel the weight of significant change—life seasons ending, new chapters beginning—I never have trouble finding the glimmer of hope and excitement. What I do struggle with is remembering to stop and celebrate. When you’re naturally so trained on the horizon, it’s hard to remember to pause and breathe in, and appreciate not just the road ahead, but also the road behind you—and how it led you to where you stand right now.

The thing is, so many life changes we don’t even get the opportunity to celebrate. There’s no party, no speeches, no special ceremony or fancy certificate to mark the gradual passage of time. And the older you get, the more quickly it passes. Celebrations give us the opportunity to stop and say, “This matters. I’m thankful.” That’s why ceremony is important. That’s why building in celebrations—big and small—is one of the simplest and easiest ways to bring more joy into your life.

I think we all could stand to celebrate more of the changes in our lives.

Even the little ones.

Especially the bittersweet ones.

May is a month of change, and it is also a month of celebration. So the lesson I’m choosing to take with me into the months and years ahead is to go ahead and throw the party. Get the balloons. Write the note. Life is full of changes, and that is worth celebrating.

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