And so we got out of the car, my friend and I. We hugged, or embraced, whichever word you prefer. She said some stilted words of farewell, perhaps something about taking care of myself. I don’t really remember. Then I turned around and walked towards my apartment, she got in her car and drove away, and I made it to the sidewalk before I basically started bawling. I’m not one of those single teardrop, elven-esque criers, as I’ve had to resign myself to a long time ago.
This girl who just left, one of my best college friends, had said goodbye to me before, of course. But this time was different. This time, I didn’t know when we’d see each other again. Up till now, it’d been “Goodbye, see you at the end of summer,” “Goodbye, see you after the break, have a great Christmas,” “Goodbye, see you at church,” “See you the week after next,” “This was fun, we should do it again next week,” “Wanna watch a movie next week?” “Wanna grab something to eat?” “See you tonight at choir practice,” or even just, “See you next week sometime.” Until finally, here and now, there are no next weeks and tomorrow night I’ll be in a strange apartment, in a strange city that feels a thousand miles away.
It is a breaking, not of our friendship, but of the outward ties that bind us, of college and choir and even just close proximity—twelve minutes, in fact, if the red lights are favorable, and the one Old College always is. It seems so dramatic to say I don’t know when I’ll see them again, my friends, because I know I will see them. A three hour motorized trek is far, far better than what we might have endured a hundred years ago. In fact, as I write this, these friends are making plans to visit. But then we’ll part again, and again with that unknowing. The same, empty unknowing that scooped me up the moment I turned my back in that parking lot, the one next to the apartment I used to live in.
It hurts, this parting, and though not unforeseen, it hurts more than I thought it would. I guess all those jokes about wiping the dust of that town off my feet and cutting off everyone who lived there didn’t really help, so I’m sorry about that. If it helps my apology, I want you to know that I cried all the way from my old home to my new life, stopping only a few times along the way, because I refused to be a sobbing wreck at a gas station and a Whataburger.
My brother’s words echo in my ear: “Shoulda taken five years in college; shouldn’t have been in such a hurry to get out.” But it’s not that; I was ready to get out and, much like Jo March crying over her shorn hair, I’d do it again tomorrow if I could. I was ready to get gone, I was ready to leave school. Just not my life. It’s pit, as Mom would snarl.
I wonder a bit why I feel like I’m more broken up about leaving college than I was about leaving home four years before that. I wonder if part of it is that I built this college life. It wasn’t the one I was born into; that one is always a part of me. This one, this one that I’m leaving, is a toddler thing, comparably. This often selfish, other times selfless, sometimes awful, but altogether wonderful existence that I’ve crafted for the last four years is gone, forever, and it is never coming back. The people will, some of them, but not quite the same way. And this grieves me, as well it might.
I don’t think it’s wrong that it should. But nor do I think it’s wrong that I should write these feelings and then think less of them, or that I should take a line from one of my favorite books and “put [my] strength now and hereafter toward staying and not fleeing.”1
Perhaps, some day soon, those lyrics from that song I like will cease being lines of sadness, and start being a sign of hope.
It’s only change
It’s only everything I know
It’s only change, and I’m only changing 2
I’m only changing.
1 McKinley, Robin. Deerskin. New York: Ace Books, 1993. Print.
2 Ben Folds. “Still.” Over the Hedge-Music from the Motion Picture. 2006.