My friend Jeremy spent a year studying in Egypt and, when he returned to South Dakota State, someone asked him if had savored each moment, knowing that he would soon be gone. He said that he purposely did not and tried not to think, “This is the last time I will walk down this street” or “This is my final meal at this restaurant that I so love.” At the time, his response confused me. Why wouldn’t you want to mark the finality of every occasion? Isn’t that the way you honor and say goodbye to a place?
For months I envisioned what it would be like to walk to school for the last time or draw that final pale of water. Each last, no matter how menial, would be a celebration and a grand gesture to incredible, life-changing years.
I set out to embrace the closing stretch with full attention and without regret. Each decision and moment would count. Yet, the anxiety of living up to that wild idea of perfection ruined the present. I so wanted believe that I spent these remaining few months wisely but I fretted over how to do that and which activity was more real than another that I eventually lost the point entirely.
These concluding days, though, didn’t include some pomp and circumstance. I was just going to do what I needed to in order to finish my service and move away from village. That is it.
That last walk to school was actually with a Mosotho friend who walked a good half hour to see me before going to work. That final pale of water was drawn by three girls who were bored and wanted to do something for me. The end of school wasn’t notable, with the exception of the few tears that came as I walked out of the campus and a student wished me Merry Christmas as if I would see her when school reopens. My departure only slightly recognized. Another normal day.
Normal, though, is what I will remember and crave the most. Normal days are where I built my life and it’s what defines my service. Big, spectacular finales are great at times but I’ve never been one for overzealous goodbyes. I would rather squeak out quietly as if I may return the next day. I don’t need to cloud the moment with finality in order to create one more extraordinary memory because I have enough. Rather, to truly honor all the little moments of the previous two years, it’s better not to notice the lastw and continue on as if I’ll have a whole lifetime of walking to school along the same dirt paths or fetching water from the same cement well.