Moving away, or any big life transition, often puts friendships under a microscope. It shines a light on the bond and gives a visibility that you were never able to see before or just wouldn’t admit. Often, you are surprised.
Some people, you realize, don’t value you as much as you thought they did. You thought you were friends, but now that you’ll be absent, you see that you were a never a priority and your union was merely a coincidence of proximity.
We all have friends that we know are not good friends and good for us, but it really comes out in these types of situations. You want it to be like a sitcom, where you address the past as the past and move on with resolution. But, real life doesn’t tie up that neatly and people don’t like to admit when they’ve wronged someone. Even though you know better, it still seems to sting when they disappoint you doing the same things they’ve always done.
Then there are the people who you like and enjoy their company, but never really knew how much they valued you. They are devastated by your exit in a way you never expected and they make it a point to tell you how you’ve impacted their life. These people blow you away, and do their best to make up for those that disappoint.
The most beautiful surprise comes from the good friends, the ones that you always knew were strong. When you move, that strength is energized and put into action. They spend as much time as possible with you, travel great distances to only see you for a few hours and refuse to say goodbye until the last possible moment and won’t utter that terrible word because of the ending it assumes. These friends, you know, are the ones who will write you letters, send you late night emails and be there when you return.
This weekend, I said goodbye to a majority of my friends and I was surprised in all four ways. On Friday, three of my wonderful friends threw me a going away party. It started with a picnic and advanced to drinks at our favorite dives. Some friends picked pieces of the evening to stop by, give hugs and ask a few questions, while others gave me their entire evening and made it their mission that I truly enjoyed my last night in Sioux Falls. The next day, I enjoyed lunch, coffee, dinner and a quiet evening of games with good friends. And, Sunday, I shared one last meal with very important people before my mom and I headed to the cities.
Throughout the weekend, I was bothered by those that didn’t make a great effort to see me or say goodbye. Don’t you understand that I’m leaving, I wanted to scream at them. It hurt that they didn’t care more. Being hung up this way bothered me. These people honestly never did matter, so why I do care? Shouldn’t I focus on those that do and forget about the rest?
This morning, as I was driving to breakfast, I understood why I seemed to let these others nag at me. If I was thinking about them and how they disappointed me, I wouldn’t have to think about leaving those incredible, amazing people behind. If I were angry, I wouldn’t have time to cry. I am only letting them bother me in an effort to avoid a flood of emotion that will knock me on the floor with tears.
Maybe it’s immature not to address this emotion and use things that are not important to cover it up, but I would be a constant mess if I did. This way, I’m functional and mostly enjoying what’s around me. And I haven’t even begun to process the notion of saying goodbye to my family.
Leaving my friends and family behind is undoubtedly the most difficult part of going to Niger. It breaks my heart to know that I won’t see some of these people for 27 months. Just being away for a few weeks have been terribly difficult, how can I manage two plus years? There is a massive lump in my throat as I write this and I am doing everything in my power to not cry, but tears are streaming anyway.
I have a stack of cards from friends that I’ve decided to wait until I am on the plane to open. I can’t let myself admit that this is a reality, and I won’t until I am on that plane and it is.
For now, this past weekend seems like any other. A beautiful time with beautiful people, and no apparent ending. I may be leaving, but nothing worthwhile is ending. The good stuff, those friends who showed their unending love for me in the last few weeks, will always be there. And, the rest, well it never mattered anyway.
To my dear and amazing friends, thank you for being apart of my life. Thank you for constantly inspiring me to be a better person and be of benefit to this world. I am going to the Peace Corps because of you. I am so blessed to have you all in my life, now and forever. May you all have peace, happiness and letters with a Niger return address.