For many of us, the first time we’re faced with saying substantial goodbyes is our high school graduation. We say goodbye to our peers we’ve seen nearly every day for four years. If you grew up in a small town, these are the people you’ve spent three-quarters of your life with every year since kindergarten. More often than not, the “goodbyes” I said to people at my high school graduation weren’t permanent goodbyes.
Even though we know they won’t be permanent, the hard post-high-school goodbyes don’t come until our close friends start heading off to their respective colleges. As cliché as it sounds, these really aren’t goodbyes. They truly are “see-you-laters.” When winter break rolls around, we head home and reunite with our hometown crews like nothing has changed.
Fast forward to the following spring: finishing up freshman year. This is the next set of goodbyes, and it feels weird. Cramming for finals and packing up our lives to head home for the summer distracts us from these impending goodbyes, but we know that we’ll see all of our friends’ smiling faces again come August or September. We look forward to reuniting with those high school friends, so it’s no big deal to bid farewell to our newfound college pals.
But here’s where it gets strange: you’re transferring. You’d like to tell yourself these are just your average “see-you-laters” that you’ve become accustomed too…but they’re not. For those who are fortunate enough to spend a year at a university away from home, you know it’s a great time. You get to have a new home for a period of time, try new things and experience a brand new environment. You also meet tons of new people, some of which become your lifelong friends.
The majority of our college transfer goodbyes are going to be hard though. Really, really hard. First of all, we have to say goodbye to a place that has been our home for the last few months. The place we experienced all of our college firsts. There are so many little things that seem so insignificant on a day-to-day basis, but as the end draws near, all of these little things seem huge. That building you admire on the way to school, that one street performer outside of your favorite bagel shop, the double crosswalk you impatiently rush through every day, the flower shop on the corner of your building, your favorite café, the view as you walk down the street, everything… It’s all starting to slip through your fingers and you can't stop it. These goodbyes are hard, but they’re doable – especially since they are one-sided.
Then, there are those two-sided goodbyes: the ones where you have to say goodbye to real people. Professors, school workers, classmates and anyone else who somehow impacted your day-to-day life. That barista at your Monday afternoon coffee spot who knew your order on the spot. That one security guard who always greeted you with a joke. The girl in your university 101 class who always complimented your handwriting. Reality can be harsh, but many, if not most, of these people will continue on living and will never see us again.
The deep and real relationships are the ones that are going to be hard to say goodbye to: friends. Regardless of who you are, it’s weird trying to make friends – especially in college. Even when you swear you’re the only new kid who’s not going to make any friends, eventually it happens. Midway through the semester, we realize that we’ve met some crazy cool people, even if we don’t remember exactly how these friendships blossomed. In many ways, these new close-knit friends make you feel like you’re back “home.” But when the end of the semester nears, we realize that most of these people are not going home with us.
As lovely as it would be, this is just not reality. The girls I want to grab a glass of wine with will be in neighboring states. Come fall, those nights I spent with the guys watching hockey will just be a memory of a great time. You’ll keep in touch and make efforts to see each other when you’re available or happen to be in the same area at the same time, but more likely than not communication will fall through and things won’t be quite how they used to be. Inside jokes will be forgotten and all you’ll have are photos that documented your freshman year of college.
So, here’s to all of those people. Whether we were friends from the beginning until the end or just had a 30-minute conversation in passing, you’ve all impacted and changed my life in some way. Each person I’ve met in my first year away was in some way, shape, or form responsible for the incredible memories I have of freshman year. Things may not be the same, but for those who have never left - I can’t thank you enough. I hope our paths will cross again someday – intentionally or not.