By Sarah Townsend Morris
Follow me on Twitter: @morrissaraht
“HelloGoodbyeHelloGoodbye… I don’t know why you say goodbye, I say hello.”
The Beatles, Hello, Goodbye
These lyrics come from what feels like my theme song of late: Hello, Goodbye by The Beatles. Since graduating college in 2007, my now husband and I have moved four times, never staying anywhere longer than three years. Perhaps we’re not so different from you or many others in our generation, who chase job opportunities wherever they lead.
Here’s my story:
I arrived in Minneapolis in mid-June of 2012 with a shiny new MPA degree, eager to dig into the civic fabric of the city, grow strong community connections, and land the best possible job. We were pursuing an excellent career opportunity for my husband, and I felt confident that the Twin Cities’ booming nonprofit sector would make the town a great fit for my career, as well. Putting my heart and soul into my networking efforts was the only way to find and secure the “right” job, I thought, so I joined any and every group I could find, attending all the events I could afford. I ran myself ragged for a few months, but by all measures, my efforts quickly worked. I was firmly established in the nonprofit community and had a full-time job consulting to nonprofits by September of that year.
Fast-forward to mid-April 2014:
After close to two years in Minneapolis, my husband’s career aspirations and the difficulties of living thousands of miles from our nuclear families led us to search for new opportunities. When we got the news that he had been offered a position in South Florida, I was, on a personal level, thrilled. He would work more normal hours, we would be able to spend more time together, and we would be within driving distance of his family. South Florida would be warm and beautiful, and we would say goodbye to Minnesota winters. The Southeast is truly home to us. We were so happy.
On a professional level, however, I was filled with dread and sadness. I felt like I had just hit my stride with work, excelling in my job and even bringing in several new clients. I had spent an immense amount of effort really learning the local nonprofit landscape and had deepened and expanded my personal network. Additionally, I was in the middle of my board term for YNPN-TC, and I had just taken on the role of Governance Committee Chair. With fellow committee members, I was gearing up to develop our next strategic plan, and I was eager to pitch in to make the YNPN National conference a huge success. It hurt my heart to think about walking away from all that I had worked so hard to build here. It was even more difficult thinking about how to break the news to my boss, clients, and fellow YNPN-TC board members.
Fast-forward to today:
Even though it hurt, I did it. We’ve all made it through to the other side of my goodbye, and now I’m down in South Florida in Week Two of my job hunt. With the heartache of goodbye still quite fresh, I have been wondering: is it worth it to put so much blood, sweat, and tears into this next chapter? Who knows what the future holds… How will I feel if I invest in this community the way I invested in the Twin Cities, only to have to turn around and say goodbye again? Will it be harder to say goodbye another time? Does it get any easier the more frequently you say goodbye? Is it really worth it to get invested?
Those questions are coming from a logical place in my mind. But I have to tell my mind and my ego to be quiet right now. This work–this charitable and philanthropic drive we all feel–has to be governed by the heart at times like this. The mind, the ego, they aren’t the ones that push us to this work. If we were driven purely by logic and the need to (materially) succeed, we wouldn’t be in this sector. We nonprofiteers all, on some level, feel driven in our hearts to this work.
So, right now I must listen to my heart, and my heart always tells me to go all-in:
Push yourself to understand this community’s needs. Push yourself to find a place where your talents can help make positive change. Push yourself to get to know people, to get connected, to understand how you can help them and they can help you. It will be hard if you have to say goodbye again. But maybe you won’t have to say goodbye again. Then, it will have been worth the effort ten times over. And what if you do have to say goodbye again? Then at least you will know you’ve made a mark on others’ lives, a mark on the community that leaves it a better place—in however small a way—than when you came.
My hope is that, in my two years in town, I have left a positive mark on the Twin Cities and on your life, no matter how small. And please know that you have made a mark on me. I’ve never before seen civic engagement like I witnessed and partook of in the Twin Cities. I’ve never before seen such a passionate effort to create inclusive and responsive systems that work to eliminate inequity and inequality for all marginalized groups. I’ve never before seen such sophisticated and authentic community engagement in nonprofit work. I’ve never before had the opportunity for self-examination that comes with being a cultural foreigner. You’ve knocked me down a few times, but you’ve also picked me back up and inspired me. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of your community. Thank you for challenging me and changing me for the better. Thank you.