I live in a great little city with a large university and several smaller colleges. I am also active in the english speaking expat community here. One thing that students and a lot of the expats that live here have in common, they often move on after only year or so. And since most of them are attached to the school-life here, they are attuned to the school semester and all seem to come and go around the same time. This is now the third summer that I have watched some really great people leave town and go out of my day-to-day life without really knowing whether they will be back.
I don’t begrudge them their leave taking. I am honored to have known them and loved the time being around them. It’s just that they are leaving. Some will return, some not. Social media and email means I won’t lose touch completely. The pain is still there though.
“I could have missed the pain but I’d of had to miss the dance.”- The Dance – Garth Brooks
I was talking to a friend of mine about this this past week. She asked me if knowing that people will leave makes me hesitate building a friendship with them. The best answer I had was “not yet.” No, I don’t like seeing my friends leave, nor the sense of loneliness that comes from watching people leave my life (even if it happens to only be a few months). That pain has yet to overwhelm the wonderful memories that I have made with them.The Garth Brooks quote is my guide in that. Why miss the good parts of life just because there are bad things as well.
In the end life goes on. I know that just as people are leaving in the summer, new ones will come in the fall. This is a heartening feeling. To think about all of the wonderful people I met this year and who could be coming into my life soon. This is a kind of hope that I like. There will be a new group of people coming in looking for friends and opening up to the life of living here.
This situation is not as doom and gloom as I may be making it out to be. There are still a number of people that live here permanently that I spent time with regularly both locals and expats alike. Not everyone is leaving. Most of us in the more stable side of things have seen this before and can comfort each other. We know what it feels like to watch people leave and know there will be new ones. Through the new connections in the social media world, I can see my friends and hear about their life no matter where we are in the world.
Every traveler I know understands this feeling. After 2 months of study and travel and parties together having to say goodbye. All of this is akin to the film “Lost in Translation”. Two people with little else in common come together and have an intense friendship that just can’t last. Ok, that film pushes it a little, but I know experiences similar in my own travels. Traveling you get to meet so many interesting people in a flash, a brief intertwining of fate’s threads. And then they are gone. We get used to this as travelers. Or at least I understand that when I meet someone in a hostel they are leaving in a few days.
As a more permanent presences as an expat here I forget this sometimes. The time spans are much longer and it is easy to forget that 6 months goes faster than you expect. I build deeper friendships with people than I do when traveling.So when they leave, especially all about the same time I feel the emptiness more.
I would not have wanted to now know my friends. I value them greatly. I hope I never get so cynical to not get close to someone because they are on track to leave. Whether I am traveling or just living here, people are the most interesting part of it all. Even when they are also the more painful part. Eventually one or two will stay and see what it is like from this side of things. Until then, I will celebrate my friends, pray for their safe travel and hope that they do come back, and just wait for the next group.
How do you deal with goodbye? Do you avoid becoming deeper friends to avoid the hurt?