Editor’s Note: Missioner Allison Dethlefs reflects on the journey of being at peace with the people and things she had to say goodbye to at home in order to embrace the new phase of life as an FMS missioner in Cochabamba, Bolivia.
Every new beginning is an ending of sorts. Every time you set out on a new adventure, there are many things that must be left behind.
In January, my newest adventure began by getting on a plane and flying away from the world I know. I flew away from my family and friends. I flew away from security, from most of my belongings, from winters white with snow, and from knowing what tomorrow will bring.
I flew towards Cochabamba, Bolivia. I flew towards a new culture with a new history, customs, and traditions. I flew towards learning a new language (Quechua) and new dances. I flew towards tasting new foods and exploring the city of eternal spring. I flew towards new friends, new family, and new tomorrows.
The new has been exciting and wonderful and thankfully hasn’t left too much room for dwelling on the people and things I have left behind.
But I also know that birthdays will come and I won’t be there to help decorate and bake the cake. My first Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas without my family will roll around, and the traditions that I have been a part of all my life will continue on without me.
My friends will start getting married, and I won’t be able to make it to their weddings. My sister is going to graduate from high school and go off to college and I won’t be there to help mark the milestones. Life in the States isn’t going to stop just because I’m not there to witness and participate in its passing.
And yet, that is something I have to let go of. I have to let go of the life I chose not to lead because I chose this. I chose to be here—in Bolivia—on mission. And even though there are some things I am going to miss out on, there are so many other things that I will experience here. I will make and participate in new holiday traditions. I will celebrate other birthdays and milestones and send best wishes to loved ones from afar.
Part of growing up is realizing that I can only be in one place at once and that life is richer when it is lived fully in the present. I can choose to live a life divided by “what ifs” and “if onlys,” or I can choose to be present to the people, places, and experiences in front of me.
Letting go of things and people and places I love means that, while they will remain always present in my prayers and in my heart, I have to accept that for now we must live our own adventures and trust that, for the moment, we are exactly where we are meant to be.
Reflection Question: Do you get so caught up in the “what ifs” and “if onlys” that you forget to be present to the people and places in front of you? Don’t let fear and doubt take over your life. How can you re-train your eyes to see the blessings of your reality instead of obsessing over the other realities that might have been?