I recently had the very surreal experience of interviewing three candidates for Isle au Haut’s new Island Institute Fellow position. My two-year fellowship in community planning is coming to a close. In September a new fellow will be coming in and working with the town government and the historical society.

At first, I didn’t think too much of it. I saw being a part of the interview process as an opportunity to play tour guide and show off the amazing community I’ve been blessed enough to work in for the past few years. But as I started telling the candidates about what to expect living and working out on Isle au Haut, I continually made a mistake. 

I kept using the word “we.”

As in, “We do potlucks really well.”

And “We play volleyball on Wednesdays and Saturdays.”

And “We order our groceries from the market in Stonington.”

Each time I said it, I mentally kicked myself for not replacing “we” with “the islanders.” I am not going to be a part of the “we” that the incoming Island Institute Fellow will know. The new fellow will be going to selectmen’s meetings and library hours. Help Paula set the tables for the school potlucks. Chat with Bernadine on the dock.

I began to feel like I was breaking up with the island and the tour I was giving was my walk down memory lane. I talked about school picnic’s held at Head Harbor, vegan potlucks at the Keeper’s House, volleyball games at the town hall, cross-country skiing around the island in the winter, and many cups of coffee had over at the Black Dinah Café in the summer.

As we rode the boat off-island together that night, I stopped my tour-guide rambling and looked at the three candidates. There they were. Sitting side by side on the bench on the back of the boat. They had their sunglasses on. And they were grinning.

I remember stepping foot onto the boat after my interview two years go and feeling what they were in that moment. I remember that sense of belonging, peace and excitement. I remember talking to the mailboat captains trying to get a sense of what it was going to be like to live out here. I remember stepping foot back in the “real world” (Stonington) and realizing that all I wanted to do was turn around and go back to the island.

The looks on their faces reassured me that whoever takes this position will do a remarkable job and will love this community just as much as I do. I feel confident I’m leaving my friends in capable hands.

I popped into the post office a few days ago and was pleasantly surprised to see Billy, the island’s oldest and most beloved fishermen. He shared his latest dirty joke with me and as our laughter subsided he shuffled his feet together and glanced at the ground. 

“So uh”¦heard you were interviewing for your replacement?”

I nodded.

“Well, I’m going to be mighty disappointed to see you go. You brighten up everyone’s day. Don’t think you can run away and never come back. We insist you come back. Maybe you can come for a few potlucks or the island Thanksgiving. You’re welcome anytime. You’re a great person and we’re lucky to have had you.”

And that heartwarming statement was all it took to remind me that I’m not being replaced, that my relationship with these people and this community isn’t being eliminated. It’s just changing.  And that’s OK. 

“And now don’t go getting all sad on me—I still want to see that smile whenever you walk by. Chin up! Keep smiling! And come visit!”

I can do that.

Megan Wibberly has been an Island Fellow on Isle au Haut through AmeriCorps and the Island Institute.