I hate farewells. I don’t mean the brief adieu we might bid to each other while knowing it won’t be long until our next encounter. No, instead I mean the ones we exchange while mutually understanding that we won’t be an immediate and strong presence in each others’ lives anymore. I hate them because they feel so permanent — they feel as if we are releasing the other person from being a part of our lives. Pertinent to this time of year, I’ve had the displeasure to say quite a few of these farewells to my fourth-year friends over the past couple of weeks.
While I am glad to only be a rising fourth-year, it still saddens me to think that this past semester was the last time in my life I’ve had these people, whom I love and look up to, regularly in my life. In a way, my fourth-year friends have been an integral part of my experience at the University thus far, as they’ve been with me at the University for every moment of my time here.
As a third-year, I perceive my relationship with them distinctly from my first and second-year friends. In essence, this is because my fourth-year friends and I had a certain shared experience in being upperclassmen. We’re able to recall experiences that occurred prior to the second and first-years attending the University. That is, experiences common only to us that we laugh and smile about while reminiscing. All of this is to say that I have really been struggling to say goodbye to them.
I think Stevie Nicks put my difficulties best in the chorus of her song “Landslide” featuring Fleetwood Mac — “Well, I’ve been afraid of changing / ’Cause I’ve built my life around you.” Indeed, in having to say a more permanent type of goodbye, our lives will change as a result of the absence of someone. Whether it’s your friends at high school graduation, a co-worker as you transition to a new job or your closest friends as you move to a new town, the effects of the people that we interact with face-to-face everyday no longer being so immediate and tangible as they once were, invokes a noticeable change in our lives.
That is why I struggle with saying goodbye — how do you express to someone that your life will feel incomplete without them? Surely, you can tell them. But I’ve found those expressions to be hollow. Not in the sense that these comments are insincere. Rather, these expressions feel hollow because it is so difficult to convey my appreciation for them such that they are able to feel the extent of the impact they’ve had on my life. I’ve tried and tried again, but perhaps, this is just one of the boundaries of language.
Thankfully for me, however, Nicks’ chorus had more than two lines. She continues to sing and points out that “Time makes you bolder / Even children get older / And I'm getting older too.” To me, these lyrics call attention to the power of the passage of time as an instrument for personal growth and healing. In spite of having to let go of some of the most wonderful people in my life, I have realized that saying goodbye should be something sweet — not bitter.
Saying goodbye to someone not only represents a change in our lives, but more importantly, as I’ve realized, it reminds us of the growth of our own selves. We may no longer have someone in our lives, but in saying goodbye to them, we realize the passage of time that has taken place since they entered our lives.
For me, as I bid my fourth-year friends farewell, I am prompted to think back to my first-year self, who was so reserved, beautifully naive and incessantly curious about the wisdom my older peers at the University carried with them. Only then, after thinking about my former self, do I understand the growth that I’ve experienced as an individual in my character and in my own wisdom.
As such, I’ve learned to recognize the hidden silver lining that’s buried in the act of saying goodbye. Bidding our friends farewell is really a celebration of the passage of time. It is a call to remember the growth you’ve experienced, the memories you have made and the time you have spent together. Further, it also reminds you to look forward to your own life — to be open to meeting new people, to allow yourself to love and embrace the struggles and changes that are sure to come.
Despite seeing the good in it, saying goodbye to my friends was and has been emotionally difficult for me. That, however, is the purest demonstration of the value of the memories I have created with these people. So, thank you to my fourth-year friends — for more than you can know. Goodbye, and I will miss you all immeasurably.