A Healthy Relationship with Familiarity

Tonight I took a drive in my beloved Chuck the Truck for the first time in ages. I chuckle softly to myself every once in awhile because my angsty 17-year old brother has pretty much claimed the truck for himself so he doesn’t look embarrassing driving to see his friends in a minivan. And I’m okay with that. Chuck the Truck, a beautiful crimson 2003 Toyota Tundra, was my first car. He bears many, many scars of my adolescence (a white scuff mark on the fender, a cracked mirror, a taped back window) and even more memories. Sitting in that driver’s seat that is almost too big for my 5’2 frame and cranking down the window by hand felt like getting back in touch with an old friend. Leaning familiarly with him as I made familiar turns on the familiar roads got me did something wonderful to me tonight. It helped me make sense of the absolute flux I am going through currently. Turns out that when I am able to come up with extended metaphors to make sense of my life, everything feels a little less scattered and confusing.

Part of me was extremely frustrated throughout my entire senior year of college at Gonzaga. It was a very ironic frustration.  You see, I got this breathtaking opportunity to create an entire new life for myself in a city 1300 miles away from home when I was 18 years old. It was the most terrifying, exhilarating, difficult journey of growth I have accomplished in my life thus far. I was frustrated about this during my senior year because after 4 years living a certain way, it became familiar. Just like Chuck the Truck became familiar after 3 years of driving through adolescence with him. And when something becomes familiar, it becomes incredibly difficult to give up, even when nature, time and cycles of life seem to relentlessly force you. It was hard at first to see my brother drive the car in which I cried over high school crushes and sang too loud and came home too late and shared awkward attempts at intimacy. It has been the hardest thing in the entire world to leave the life I worked so hard to build to be familiar. It was also difficult to leave a 3-year relationship that became second nature to me. It was difficult to leave rituals and friendships and embraces that had all become so incredibly familiar to me over the last 4 years and therefore became my comfort. But somehow I graduated, I broke off the relationship, I came back home, and now every sense of familiarity to me is virtually gone and I feel like I have no roots.

But shouldn’t this cycle of gaining and losing familiarity be the most natural thing in the world? People are born and grow and live and die and can’t hold onto things that are familiar. Because at some point, we will be forced to let go so that we continue to gain familiarity in new ways as we age. It’s just the cycle of life it seems. So why does it seem so incredibly difficult to find a healthy balance between honoring things in our past that have at one point been familiar, and learning to let go so we can move on to fulfill our purposes?

I don’t know if I’ll ever have an answer to that question. But at this point, it seems to me that my relationship with the “familiar” all points to trust.  I consider myself a faithful, spiritual person. And the only thing that has brought me great solace in this time of transition and uncertainty and discomfort is the idea that it’s all part of a plan. A plan of nature and ultimately a plan of God. That every single thing that I have ever struggled to let go is but a stepping stone that gets me closer and closer to being the happiest I’ve ever been and doing what I was meant to do on this Earth. Letting go of the familiar and accepting that premise is so difficult sometimes, but I’ve seen proof of it in so many ways. The world has to go dark in order to experience the brilliance of a sunrise, leaves have to part from their trees so that spring can come again, and humanity has to grow and experience pain and suffering and redemption so that they can gain strength. With this strength can hopefully come wisdom and, eventually, a legacy to pass on to the next generation. The next cycle of life. It is this solidarity through building a healthy relationship of letting go of the “familiar” that keeps us in community with one another. And that is beautiful. It allows us to share in the redemption that comes from adversity.

At this point, I am overwhelmed and, in some cases, heartbroken with the amount of transitions that I’ve been seemingly forced to undergo. I’ve been forced to let go of several things that I have considered dearly familiar. But I think I’m going to wake up each day and try to trust a little more that the cycle of letting go of the familiar will only allow me to grab onto something even better. Yes. I think a little more trust might help.

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