The worst thing about having friends is that you have to say goodbye to them. And I’m not talking about the kind of goodbye when you’re both heading home for the night but you’ll see each other again to watch the game tomorrow. That’s a bullshit goodbye. That’s more of an “okay-bye,” or a “fair-bye.” I’m talking about a “great-bye” or perhaps, more fittingly, a “terrible-no-good-very-bad-bye.” I’m talking about a farewell that dives into the unknown abyss. A bon voyage that leaves you in a crumpled heap of doubt. A “see you later” that really stretches the definition of “later.” I’m talking about goodbyes that make you want to not leave.
Tomorrow, I move to Chicago (as you read this, I am already there) and I’m terrified. But the hard part is already over with. I’ve said my goodbyes. And goddammit it still hurts.
Looking at my life, you might come to the conclusion that I’m a glutton for goodbyes. It started when I was 10 and my parents moved our family from Lancaster, PA to Evanston, IL. I said goodbye to my first friends ever, and I’m not entirely sure I’ve really forgiven my mom and dad for that one.
We then left Evanston for Missoula, MT, and that was easier because I was an awkward teen without many friends, but it still sucked.
Junior year of college I studied abroad in Australia. There are very few things as devoid of hope as a goodbye that precedes a journey across an ocean.
After I graduated college, I went on a spree. I spent a summer in Yellowstone National Park. I returned to Missoula for a few months, then I did a 3-month Americorps term in Flagstaff, AZ, followed by a 6 month trek along the Appalachian Trail before returning home to Missoula, once again. All of those required brutal goodbyes. The worst was leaving my trail friends. After we finished with a triumphant climb to the top of Mt. Katahdin, one by one they dropped off until I was left standing in front of my uncle’s house in D.C. watching the last of my crew (we were a metaphorical resonating cello) drive away.
And yesterday, I, like ripping a band-aid off, had a going away party for Missoula.
This is probably a bit over-dramatic, but saying goodbye to a friend is like creating a Horcrux (If you don’t know what a Horcrux is, please go read all of Harry Potter before finishing this article.) When I am friends with somebody for long enough, I become a unique version of myself around them. That version of myself is built from shared experiences—joy, pain, boredom—totally unique to the person. And, like Voldemort tearing his soul in pieces by mixing dark magic and serial murder (this analogy is totally on point), I lose pieces of myself, left behind in friends, when we say goodbye.
I’ve lost the guy who scolds you for not rationing your food correctly. I’ve lost the guy who is smug about finally catching more fish than you. I’ve lost the guy who is a total glory hog. I’ve lost the guy who won’t admit it but actually really wants to believe Horoscopes are real.
The side effects aren’t as dramatic as Voldemort—I still have a nose. But I think all these goodbyes can hollow a person out. At least, I feel that way sometimes. I try to keep myself distracted with new experiences and new adventures, but that doesn’t always work, and it can become a vicious cycle. And right now, I know there are good things to come in Chicago, but the scars are still fresh.
In case you’re forgetting, there is an upside to Horcruxes. If you want to kill me, you’re going to have to hunt down all my friends and kill them too. Otherwise, I’m immortal.
But also, and this isn’t something Horcruxes can do, I can see my friends again. And when I do, it’s like that part of me was never even gone. That’s pretty cool. And hopefully that happens sooner rather than later.
But that’s not what I’m thinking about right now, because I’m leaving tomorrow. Christ, this sucks. Sorry for not writing snarky shit about politics or whatever this week. I just watched the debate, and it was rotten garbage. There’s your hot take.
Saying goodbye to your friends sucks. That’s all I have to say this week.