Today is a gloomy, rainy Sunday in Boston and the meteorological atmosphere matches my mood. It wasn’t more than a week ago that I celebrated the farewell of two of my dearest friends. These most recent leave-takings are not the first in a string of going-away parties that I’ve had to cope with over the last couple of years though, and are indicative of my age group. The twenty-somethings are a time of change, self discovery, and trailblazing that lays the foundations for the settled decades to come.
I’m proud of graduating from college, twice, excited to (eventually) start a professional job, and having a blast making new friends and exploring the world around me with them. But, with the variety of people you meet in college and first jobs, there is a looming inevitability of losing the people you have grown so close with over the formative years of your adulthood. Only one of my undergraduate friends is from my hometown in New York and friends I have made since that first day in my freshman dorm hale from California to Tennessee to entirely different continents. Eventually, school days end, people move back home, and take jobs out of necessity in different far-flung towns across the globe. You expect goodbyes to come at the end of the four years at college, but then prepare again to say farewells to grad school buddies and chums who have new opportunities for professional advancement. The latter two circumstances are almost even more unexpected and upsetting because there is no deadline to your living arrangements like there are in a four year college. You don’t know when exactly friends will relocate because work and life is unpredictable, especially in this economy.
Which brings me to my maudlin mood. It all started, of course, with my graduation almost three years ago from college in Boston. My closest friends were going back to New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and the Massachusetts suburbs (which really are a world away when you have no vehicle). We had a stellar string of celebrations combining graduation with promises to keep in touch and plans to visit each other. For the most part, all of us have been keeping our word to stay connected through Facebook, e-mails, phone calls, Christmas cards, and rotating visits to hometowns. My local friends and I have been diligent about having girl’s nights, brunches, and shopping trips between work, school, and family engagements. That being said, it is difficult to lose all of your friends at once. All of the sudden you go from living with these people, seeing them at least four times a week, doing everything together, and sharing loads of firsts with them to communicating every so often and having a long-distance friendship. I can see why relationships usually don’t last the long-distance test, because out of sight is often out of mind, and for romance, that is not usually a good thing. But, at least with my friends, we can go without talking for months and still pick up where we left off. Maybe living so close in such an intensive environment brings people closer together, and shared memories of literally the best time of your life build a bond strong enough for the eventual separation. You know each other, have seen each other at your best and worst (holding back someone’s hair while they expel a profusion of alcoholic beverages brings people together), and can probably state three or more embarrassing facts about one another. Friendships like this don’t go away without a fight and losing college friends to post-graduate life is sad because they are not only your comrades, but represent the golden years of your life that you will look back on at your 50th birthday party and say “boy, didn’t we have fun!”
Now, post-graduate friends are equally as special, but are made from a different recipe in the batch of cookies that are life. By the time I got to grad-school, I had gotten over the graduation diaspora from my undergraduate days and was entering a new environment where I had a lot more in common with people I was sitting in class with. Grad school is different this way in that everyone in your program has similar interests. At library school and in an Archives program, it was pretty safe to say that everyone had an interest in books, history, and was probably either a little OCD and/or nerdy in some way. Grad school is like internet dating for friendship. You start out with a pool of people who have the same interests, ambitions, and dispositions, and who therefore will probably hit it off. None of my undergraduate friends had the same majors as I did. Somehow I ended up befriending a handful of scientific-minded people. I know way too much about lobsters than any layperson should, got to see firsthand the pressures of scaled grading, and was palpated*. At grad school however, I met people who I could drag around museums, historic sites, and athenaeums without worrying that they were bored, people who think my attempt at making a historically accurate Halloween costume of a Jane Austen character is cool, and people who sat through a three hour murder mystery cocktail party complete with 20’s decade clothes, vintage radio, and prohibition booze served in tea cups (I go big or go home!). Not to say that my other friends are not interested in those things or that we have nothing in common, but grad school friendships tend to be born from shared interests rather than shared experiences.
So, now that grad school is over, I have to say goodbye to my new set of friends that I made. It is almost worse letting go of these friends because in comparison, the grad school departures are gradual and contingent upon job placements rather than at a known and prepared for date. It started with Cornflower’s move to a job in the South via her hometown months ago and most recently ended with Indigo’s move yesterday. I have a friend going as far as Pakistan but some moving back into Boston. It is a time for change again and I can’t help but be saddened by the second round of losses. Gone are the days when people’s social circles were limited to the surrounding fifty miles and families stayed in their hometowns. I appreciate the ability to travel and to meet people from all over the world, but sometimes I long for eras-gone-by when people stayed in their birthplace and grew up with neighbors. People didn’t have to prepare for separations because they never left, but built a life around their family and friends where they were born. This may sound small-town, but there is a charm in knowing and depending on people staying put.
With so many farewells, I feel like I’ve become the “goodbye girl” lately. I know I’ll see my friends again and talk to them via some form of technology, but it isn’t the same face-to-face society available when you all live in the same city. Furthermore, I worry about making new friends in such a different environment. There are no more classes to bond over or legitimate excuses to strike up a conversation with a stranger. What works in an educational environment makes you the weirdo on the T talking to people you don’t know. All I can say is that my goodbyes have made me appreciate my friendships and my advice would be to cherish the time you have with friends you make in college.
May your twenty-somethings be as rich and joyous as mine have been so far! Feel free to commiserate with my sad, lonely self below.
*Sounds like a dirty doctor game, right? It wasn’t. It was actually painful at moments, especially near the shoulder blades, but I helped out a friend with her anatomy and physiology studying.