In the last couple of weeks, I have avoided talking about the happiness of finishing my last course at UBC, graduating, and heading to McGill because it means that I finally have to face the reality that I have to leave. And with that, I have to deal with all the delightful chores that accompany such a move. For me, the hardest part of this entire process is picking what to hold onto and what to let go. Unfortunately, I don’t just mean my possessions.
Picking which clothes to donate, which boxes of class notes and papers to throw away, and which pieces of furniture to sell suggest an extended metaphor of having to make some similar decisions regarding connections, attachments, and relationships.
Relationships change over time for many reasons.
As we grow up, our values and beliefs may begin to deviate from our parents, and especially as we leave the nest, we may have to break off the patterns of old relationships and individuate separately from each other (parents need to grow separate from us, as well!) before forming a new type of bond with them. My counselor was explaining to me how sometimes parents cannot recognize that their children have become different people, and it can be hard for them to accept that a new relationship needs to form. Accepting that parent-child relationships evolve can be difficult, and for some, it may be impossible.
But friendships evolve as well. A good friend of mine explained how she and her best friend in high school were practically twins, but she went into one faculty at UBC, and her friend went into another, and now after they have received their degrees, they have almost nothing in common. Personally, I believe our experiences as undergrads make such a lasting impact on who we become because the adolescent/young adult years are when our prefrontal cortices are most sensitive to synaptic pruning by our experiences. The prefrontal cortex is implicated in memory formation, executive function, decision making, and expression of personality, so how this brain region develops is key to who we become as individuals.
Certainly, relationships with our most intimate partners change over time, as well, as our passions or underlying values may no longer align. Or perhaps they never did, but the sparkle of getting into a new relationship prevented us from seeing that from the beginning. I enjoy the tv show How I Met Your Mother precisely because in all its humour, they portray relatively realistic perspectives on relationships. The main character, Ted, falls in love with Robyn, and the audience may think that they fall into an annoying on-and-off relationship the way that Ross and Rachel did on Friends. However, the writers cleverly jumped off of that boat, because in the end, Ted wanted children and loved growing roots in one place while Robyn loved being unattached and spontaneous. Their core values were not aligned and in my opinion, two people cannot be together without that.
Having said all that, I can accept that all relationships will change over time. However, I find myself refusing to accept change that is forced upon me by the reality of having to move to a new city. I find myself still creating roots for myself in Vancouver, making great new friends and connecting with new people, even today, because I desperately want to hold on to my city, my home. It is as though a tornado is coming to uproot me and I am trying to resist with all my might.
And then I thought about Toy Story 3. I remember loving that movie, and I remember so many people raving about and crying at the movie. And why is that?
My theory is that it’s because the movie is about the universal feeling of loss or questioning of one’s purpose and love when situations change. Parents see children off to college. Children deal with leaving the nest. Someone older may have to confront the changing meaning and focus in their lives as they retire from their career. And of course, all of us have dealt with loss in one way or another.
The movie resonated with everyone because it was about what happens when an unavoidable situation forces us to make decisions about who we want to be, where we want to go, who we want to spend this new chapter of life with, and what we have to give up.
I have fiercely procrastinated from everything I have to do to move, because I’m scared that all of my existing relationships will change. Not being able to hug my dear friends, give them high fives, or hang out in a group playing baseball or board games will inevitably change the nature of my friendships.
I fear that when I leave, I will lose my friends. But I realize now that that is a mistake. I should really look at moving as a blessing, because I am forced to realize how much my friends mean to me, so I have to make a conscious decision to make the effort and keep in touch. It is a blessing that I get to head to a whole new city, where new friends undoubtedly abound. It’s like in Toy Story 3, the toys head to a new home in the end and leave their old one, but they always have the memories with Andy, and now they get to form new ones in their new home. Andy is my Vancouver, and the toys’ adventure and goal to stay together, well that should be how fiercely I fight to maintain the important relationships in my life, even if a whole new chapter is about to begin. If they are important to me, I need to find a way to integrate them into my new life. (Sorry if I spoiled the movie for you…)
I guess at this moment I can finally accept the fact that I have to move on with my life and embrace the new. I have to learn from some of my closest friends, who I think the world of: Take the leap and jump into the wind, knowing that you have prepared yourself enough for a soft landing, trusting that this wind will take you where you are supposed to go.
Oh, man. I need to pack.