I was sitting on my bright orange couches in my small apartment in Durres, Albania and broke down in tears at thought of leaving a place that I love and that has become home for the last 3 years. I recently became engaged and made the decision to move back to North America to be closer to my fiancé and get married in the Spring. This was a moment I should be celebrating and overjoyed about, but I felt the heaviness of guilt, disappointment and shame.
Leaving Albania meant that I would be ending my term early.
I am a natural born perfectionist. Someone who hates quitting in the middle of something. The thought of not completing my term and leaving for what I thought were selfish reasons weighed heavily on me. I kept thinking, “No, you don’t deserve to be happy. You need to stay for the mission.” I continuously searched for someone else’s opinion to make me feel better about the decision to resign and return early.
I couldn’t shake these feelings of disappointment – as if I was disappointing my team, my organization, and Albanians. This small city became a home. I came as a single girl – no family or friends were by my side when I landed in Durres. Over the years, my Albanian community took me in and treated me as if I was a part of their family. We broke bread together, wept together, shared deep belly laughs together, celebrated the high moments of life together, and prayed through the difficulties of life together. They were the people that saw me through my awkward season of language learning and cultural immersion – that really bonds you with people!
In January I packed up my apartment and at the time of writing, I have been Stateside for a month. I am still grieving the end of that season. Over the past month I have experienced anger, sadness, fear, loneliness. Leaving the field early was one of the hardest decisions I had to make. People keep saying that I should be so happy because I found the love of my life, but it’s been hard to soak that in when I continually feel like I let God down.
Sitting alone one morning in Chicago I asked God for truth. I was desperate to hear from Him, and that quiet morning I heard a few things:
- God is still working in Albania. He loves Albania and is still changing people’s lives. I am thankful for the role I got to play in His plan.
- God still loves me regardless of location/job, and He is walking me through this transition of life.
- Don’t be scared to talk about your feelings with your close circle of people. They care about you and want to help process this new journey.
- Give yourself grace. The process is hard and it’s ok to grieve.
I am reminded of a C.S. Lewis quote, “There are far, far better things ahead.” I was able verbalize out loud that I am still following God and He has new things waiting for me, but it wasn’t until I fully accepted that truth that I started to have peace about the decision to leave Albania early.
What were the hardest parts of leaving for you? What has been helpful to you in the midst of transition? What are some truths you have heard?