This post has been a jumble of words and sentences and tears and stories for weeks now. Every time I sit down to write, I either get 1) too confused or 2) too emotional or 3) too angry or 4) too sad or 5) too excited or 6) a really weird combination of all five. I start with a few words, and then all of the sudden it feels like my mind and my heart get all tangled, and the words come to a screeching halt. Or they just sound like gibberish.
And after a while, I get frustrated, because it somehow feels like I can never really find the right words. Words that say “goodbye” and “thank you” and “it’s been fun” and “that was really hard” all at the same time. Words that give New York all the credit it deserves, but don’t over-glorify either. Because for every good and magical day [and there were plenty], there was at least one hard or crappy one, too. But you don’t see those ones on Instagram, so life here can look pretty quickly like a glamorous highlight reel. Like every day was straight out of the movies. And while I loved it [believe me… I loved this city deeply], I think part of me was worried all along that someone might find out about all the hard things. That they’d realize that there was this piece in my heart that really, really missed long car rides and patios and quiet mornings and fresh air.
And I think that’s a truth I’ve been struggling with for weeks… that while I love this city, I think it’s possible for me to love other places, too. And I think I have to let myself have that chance to love other places. Because how else will I know?
If you would have predicted this moment a year ago, I would have told you that you were crazy. I had plans for this city. I was all in. And that’s the part that hurts the most, I think. Feeling like something I love is being ripped out from under me. You know that feeling, don’t you? That feeling when you start to realize that it’s not really the thing at all you’re scared of giving up. It’s control. You’re terrified of losing control.
When I moved to New York City, I had every intention of staying here for a while. A long while. (If you don’t believe me, ask my parents. Or my closest friends. They know, just like I do, of the stars in my eyes when I moved here two years ago.) I saw myself here. I envisioned raising a family. Life made sense among skyscrapers and Central Park sunrises and dreamy Saturday afternoons walking down Madison Avenue. You had to be brave to live in New York City. I liked that label. I chased that label for a good while.
Part of me would light up inside every time someone made mention of my life here. I was proud. I secretly loved when people seemed impressed that I figured it out so quickly. Like I had cheated the system somehow. Like moving here was easy for me and that I “had it all together.” It just happened. Like a movie, only better, because this was real life. Somehow, as it does with most transplants, New York City quickly became part of my identity. The first question out of anyone’s mouth whenever we’d reunite would be, “So how’s the city treating you?” “Still liking it up there” or “How’s New York?” “I’ve been loving following your life on Instagram. Sounds like you’re living the dream.”
And over time, every time I heard that question, I got a little more frustrated. It’s like the inside of me would scream, “CAN’T SOMEONE ASK ME HOW I AM. NOT THE CITY. THE CITY WILL BE FINE. WITH OR WITHOUT ME. CAN YOU JUST ASK ME. MEAGHAN TAYLOR O’CONNOR. HOW ARE YOU? REALLY, HOW’S YOUR HEART? HOW’S YOUR SOUL? ARE YOU TIRED? ARE YOU HAPPY? HOW’S LIFE, REALLY?”
I remember the moment that I finally figured out that is was ok for me to leave. I was walking to work, the Monday after I got back from my interview/trip to Colorado, and I was on the phone with a good friend. She could sense that I was excited about it. But she could also sense major hesitation. She knew that my heart was wrapped around this city so tightly, that it’d hurt like hell to let it all go. That it’d probably break me. And upset some people. And that the logistics were hard and overwhelming to think about. But she listened, anyway. And then she told me, “Meaghan, I think you’re waiting for someone to give you permission to go. You can go. You have permission. Not from me or from anyone else. But you have it. So you can go.” And I’m pretty sure in that moment I felt this weird sensation of fog lifting and really intense anxiety. I didn’t need permission.
I wanted someone, anyone, to tell me what to do. I wanted God to hire a skywriter and script in beautiful lettering, “It’s time, Meg. Trust me.” Mostly, I just wanted someone to whisper straight into my heart, “It’s ok, Meaghan. You can leave. You can take this job. You can do this thing that seems crazy right now. Yes, you can do it. And you’re going to be ok.”
For weeks, I convinced myself that I was torn. But I wasn’t. Because there’s a difference between being torn and being torn up. I was torn up, yes. Because I knew whatever I chose would hurt. A lot. But I wasn’t torn. God have given me peace back in Colorado. Seconds after my interview, in fact. I knew in my heart what I was going to do all along. I was just waiting for some type of confirmation. There were tears—and lots of them—but I guess I just figured they were “you’re going through this really hard thing” tears. Not “you’re going to make a decision that’s going to rock your world so far out of orbit it’s going to feel like the world’s biggest punch in the gut” tears. And the reason it hurts so badly? You know what you want. And it feels kind of like jumping into a rabbit hole with your eyes closed and hoping you find ground at the bottom. And you’re a little bit angry, too, because it feels like New York City quickly became a rug that was torn from under you. Without even two weeks notice. And that hurts. Really, really hurts.
But while you process all that, and while you’re hurting a little bit, I promise you that New York City is going to whisper, “I’m going to be here. I’ll always be here. But it’s time for you to go do your thing. Don’t worry, I’ll be here. If you need to come back, I’ll be here.”
Because here’s the thing. You can choose to leave. Or you can choose to stay. Or you can choose to move across the country. Or you can choose to keep on fighting, clawing your way up. Or you can choose to chase the sunrise. Whatever it is. You can choose. With God’s love and direction, he gives you that power to choose. You don’t actually need permission. And you know that. Deep, deep in your heart you know that. So go believe that. And trust that the Lord is going to be there when things get really hard. And you start to second guess yourself. And you wonder, “Did I make the right choice?” Did I screw up?”
So when those doubts creep in… here’s what I want you to remember: I wish you could see yourself like those friends on the sidelines do. The ones who call themselves your cheerleaders. Your best friends. The people you love most. Because they see something deeply, deeply special inside of you. I can tell by the way they look at you. And talk about you. They think you’re pretty incredible. And brave. And beautiful. So why don’t you believe that. And they know, just like you do too, that you don’t need New York City to be brave and beautiful and successful and happy. Because you’re a world changer, love. And you can change the world from anywhere. Colorado needs you, too.
The truth, and something that’s been revealed to me slowly, is that this city—whether you can admit it to yourself or not—is never going to love you back. As much as you put into it and work like a crazy person and strive and reach and climb. It’s just never going to love you back. Because it’s a city. That’s all. It’s a city. Sure, it’s going to give you those moments you feel like your heart is on fire, the ones you feel most alive, the ones where you have to pinch yourself just as a simple reminder that you’re not actually living inside a script of 13 Going on 30. But you’re also going to wake up some days and feel really, really sad that you can’t just hop in your car and drive to Target. Or you’re going to look at your checking account and cry a little bit every time you see rent come out. And you’re going to watch people push themselves to the top and step all over one another on the way up and you’re going to think, “Is this really me? Really, is it?”
Here’s the hard thing about change, though. And part of the reason I am so thankful to have an abundance of older and wiser women in my community who keep reminding me how important change is. The hard thing, is that in order to come out on the other side, I’ll have to let myself grieve a little bit. I’ll have to let the weight of change fully sink in, otherwise it’s going to hit me a lot harder when I step off that plane on Saturday. So while I’ll definitely be putting on my brave face, I also know that the next few days are my time to get excited and to mourn at the same time. To mourn saying goodbye to good friends and a place that’s taught me more than I’d ever thought possible about love and life.
But I also know, and of this I’m sure, that when you love something, you’re supposed to let it go. You’re supposed to look it in the face and say, “Best of luck to you. I know you’re going to change the world someday. And I can’t wait to sit back and watch. And to play a tiny little character in your incredible story.” I don’t know if that’s me saying that to New York City, or New York City saying that to me, but I do know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this is right. And that change — while it sometimes hurts more than broken bones and broken hearts — is when we learn the most about ourselves. The most about life. And so I’m going to go with that. And I’m going to hope and pray that when it is finally time to say goodbye, I’ll be able to look back and say, “That was even harder and more beautiful than I ever could have anticipated. But I did it all. And I went all in. And I’m so, so glad I did.”
So here’s where I borrow a few words from my friend Hannah Brencher (who just wrote a real, actual book, y’all!). Because sometimes, we look for truths and they just come right out and hit you straight across the face.
“There is no time to ask why. Only time to do. You don’t want to miss what is going in here… This life is not about holding on too tightly, it’s about sending people where they need to be.” [If You Find This Letter]
So mourn. And say goodbye. But know that the people you love are sending you out on your way because they love you that much. And they know it’s ok to say goodbye for a while. And also know that your time here wasn’t for one second a waste. You made an impact. Just look at the imprint you made on so many people’s lives. Don’t be worried about that. Don’t be worried about people forgetting you. [Because yes, I know you’re worried about that, too.] You chose to live. That’s the best part. You weren’t afraid to let people in. You weren’t afraid to live life and grasp on. Don’t you for one second be worried people are going to forget you. They won’t. I promise. Your hands are sketched all over their hearts.
And here’s what they’re saying, on repeat.
You go shake the world, girl. Wherever you are. Go shake the world.
So to the girl who wants more than anything else to follow her heart, but is scared and terrified and out of her mind about it, know that it’s ok. It’s ok to walk away from something great for something that could turn out so much greater. It’s ok to believe you’re capable. It’s ok to believe you were made for so much more. Because you were. It’s ok to doubt and question, but to also live in peace amidst those doubts and questions. And it’s ok to dance. And smile. And laugh. And enjoy. Because you get one life, friends. And those are the things you’re going to remember. Those times you put your heart on display for all to see, that time you chased your dream so ferociously it led you away from one of the most magical cities on earth. That night you cried so hard you just had to let yourself sink deeply into your best friend’s arms. Those, those are the things you’re going to remember.