Ending well

Saying goodbye to people, places, and things that have become home over the last ten months is hard. Let’s not beat around the bush here: I am going to deeply miss my work at the Diocese of California and living in the Bay Area. It is the coolest place I’ve ever lived, and I hope to make a triumphant return to the West Coast someday. But for now, God is calling me back to the East Coast, where I am excited to be working at a church outside of Baltimore (I just printed, signed, and emailed my offer letter about ten minutes ago, which was a very exciting moment).

My housemates and I have been talking a lot recently about goodbyes and endings, and how we want to do these things with each other when our time together ends. Seven people moved to Berkeley, California last August to live in intentional community together, and the five of us left will travel to Lake Tahoe this weekend to say goodbye. Two of our housemates left the program before the full ten months had elapsed — one was a discerned departure, and one was a more sudden one. Both of these departures have taught all of us who were involved in them about goodbyes and endings, and they have informed how we are trying to intentionally finish and live together in this last week.

One of the things we did as a group to look back, remember, and laugh was compile a list of the “top ten weirdest things we do/have noticed/have happened” during our time together over the last ten months. There are 36 things on that list, which I’ll share with you here in an organized fashion.

Food accounts for eight of those things. Within our own group, we immediately noticed a wide variety of taste buds. I live with people who enjoy eating quinoa for breakfast and drinking a concoction of coffee and orange juice, which are not things that I prefer to do in the first hours of the day.

In September, we made a list of foods we each like and dislike and are allergic to so the chefs for each weekly meal could easily figure out what to make that would please everyone. That list made clear that the only dinner meal we would all ever agree on 100% is eggplant parmesan, which I think we only ate once. This meant compromise and picking around intense dislikes became a weekly practice, and I only had an allergic reaction one time — to eggplant parmesan, of all things. Some people tried grits and bar-be-que cauliflower (which is so good) for the first time here, among other things. In the last few months, we made brownies every week (and this week we’re having them every night), because brownies are the basis of the fabric that holds this community together.

With each other in the whole group or in smaller groups, we tried many new things here in the Bay Area. We attended meetup groups with varying success (telling other queer people you work for the church nosedives the conversation, every time), learned how to set a rat free from one of the sticky pad traps (with much needed emotional and physical support from the nearby seminarians in the sacristy), went and visited the wildflowers (where our housemate with a law degree kept us from trespassing), and hitchhiked when the bus didn’t arrive at the scheduled time. In the necessary privacy of our basement, we tried learning a hip-hop modern dance routine together while the house across the street from us threw their nightly rager. And throughout the year, we all witnessed creative interpretations of driving laws here in California.

At our worksites, in addition to learning valuable, resume enhancing skills, we did many “other duties as assigned.” They include, but are by no means limited to, pinning balloons on a coworker for Halloween, creating a glossary of terms for internal use, sewing together altar tablecloths, and being general technical support with the only qualifications for such being that we’re millennials.

Lastly, there are just a few things from this list that don’t really fit anywhere else, so they’re listed here:

  1. I was in no way prepared for the importance of Herb Alpert.
  2. We had multiple encounters with former Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in our pajamas.
  3. We started with a good mix of queer and not queer people, but with departures and self-exploration, the group of us that will say goodbye at the very end are all queer!
  4. We said the word “deliverable” more than ever before, and in multiple languages.
  5. We admired a lot more architecture than any of us may have imagined would be a part of this program.

All in all, it’s been a great year, and speaking for myself here, I wouldn’t trade these experiences for any others. It’s been a year of growth and learning for all of us, and despite what this last photo (and all the others like it) might portray, it’s been a great time. We just think it’s funny to take serious photos together with the weird lighting we can create in our basement. I’ve included the first photo of its kind to jog people’s memories, as needed. Notice the difference in the alive-ness of our plant. Sorry, Tom (the plant’s nickname).

With all the love and thanks to all who make this experience possible,

Sara and all of their housemates