So, as I look towards both the light and the dread of graduation, I am emotionally preparing myself for saying goodbye to some of the people I care about most. There’s one person in particular I’m really going to miss. They are one of my closest friends and there was a time when we were slightly more than friends, which just ties my heart in even more knots when I think of them leaving. I should also add that this person is planning to move to the other side of the world. And though they say that we’ll stay friends and that they will do all they can to ensure that, I guess I don’t know if I’m ready for this big shift in the terms of our relationship and I’m bracing myself for the worst. Do you have any advice on how to be more optimistic about all this? Is there something I should do to make the goodbye less painful when it happens?
Ms. Woefully Bad at Goodbyes
Dear Ms. Woefully Bad at Goodbyes,
As someone who is also looking toward the light and dread of graduation, I too have given much thought to the many goodbyes that I expect come springtime. I spent a lot of my junior year terrified of the prospect of being a senior, as I felt I had just barely settled into things by the time these unavoidable goodbyes took up permanent lodging somewhere in the anxiety lobe of my brain. Naturally, as I am wont to do, the idea that I was about to be a college senior when memories of being a high school senior were still fairly fresh in my mind spiraled me into abject awareness of the passage of time and my own mortality. But I digress—I only walked you through that to demonstrate that there is no magical amount of “emotional preparation” you can do for saying goodbye, the same way there isn’t for the fact that it’s supposed to snow on Tuesday, or dying.
I don’t mean to be morbid, but I also do. There is an exhilarating pleasure in embracing the freedom of these coming separations and the fact that there is nothing you can do about them but know they’re coming, which it sounds like you do. Senior year is a year defined by endings, and that’s what makes it fun, exciting, and full of opportunity. The Amity Hall gin and tonics that are regularly consumed on Wednesday nights are its bitterness manifest. And I don’t know if you’d agree, but Senior Night sometimes feels like the only regular fun Columbia-related thing that people show up to. Senior Night makes me feel like our greatest communion is in knowing the end is coming, and that we’re all coping with existing through moments designed to be remembered as halcyon days of youth. The point I’m trying to articulate is that knowing something is about to end is part of what makes it meaningful.
So, about your friend. First of all, it sounds like both of you are aware of and have discussed your coming separation. And I specifically call this your separation, rather than their leaving, because despite their globetrotting, the separation is mutual—you’re both leaving. You say you’re bracing for the worst, and in my mind, the “worst” is a situation where you end up holding onto the complex aspects of your relationship with them by yourself. It seems like you feel like your friend is actually leaving you, and it makes sense why you might feel that way (or at least write about it that way), yet I can’t help but pin that onto your unsettled emotions over their plans to go abroad.
What I propose sounds paradoxical: You need closure. I’m not sure if this is possible preemptively, but the time you two have together is waning by the second, and it feels like there is something more you want them to know. If you feel that it’s for the better that the more-than-friendship aspects of your relationship are over, take that as guiding information about how you want to spend the rest of the year together. It sounds like you don’t trust them to keep in touch in the same way you trust yourself; consider looking into why that might be. If it’s because you find your heart dissatisfied with the prospect of being just friends, and then long-distance friends, separated by time and geography, I think you should tell them exactly that. The big change is coming whether you do or don’t, and as per the man masturbating as Pompeii exploded around him, why not face the end with a declaration of love, if not of self, then of your closest friend?
This isn’t to say you need to be more “optimistic” about graduating. Nothing I could tell you would lessen fears about the great abyss of post-grad that awaits you. I find there is a node of great peace amid the general chaos of change, and something really exciting about living through the end. We are living in gossamer times! For many of us, this may be the only part of our lives suspended by the certainty of change. You and your friend will be separated by endless oceans no matter what. When you look at the moon and think of them, in a part of the world where it’s daytime, will you feel those same knots in your heart? Or will the moon, ever a romantic, gaze back at you sympathetically, and soothe you in the knowledge that you can be at peace while apart?
Ask Alma is the advice column of the Columbia Daily Spectator. All questions are answered by Alma. To respond to this piece, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Have a question of your own for Alma? Fill out this form.