I just realized that this year, I’m a “stayer.” (For reference, check out this post from The Culture Blend that explains what it is to be a stayer, a goer, or a newbie in the constant transition of expat life). And the “friends leaving” phase has already started. Life here tends to be very transitory, so I am used to people coming and going. But this year seems somehow overwhelming. Claire left earlier this week. I said goodbye last night to another friend, Jeremy, who is leaving the beginning of next week. Over the next few months I will say goodbye to so many more: Zoe, Caleb, Hannah, Angela, Sophia, Mike, Veronika, Joelliane, Rose, Christine, Imani, Ellen, Marie-Helene, Abby, Mark, Stephanie, Danah, Emma, Steve, and probably lots of others.
I suppose that this is another way in which being summer camp staff every summer for ten years prepared me for my current lifestyle:
Summer camp gets you used to meeting new people every. single. summer.
And to saying goodbye every. single. summer.
But that doesn’t always make it any easier.
I’ve written before about how I hate saying goodbye. I much prefer “see you later,” but deep down, I know that is often a lie–those “see you laters” don’t often actually happen. And people only “keep in touch” for so long before friendships drift apart, long spaces of silence interrupted only by the occasionally “like” of a photo on Facebook. Of course there are exceptions, like my ongoing friendship with Nik, who I met when I was just fourteen and a camper at Miracle Mountain Ranch, and she was a member of the idolized barn staff (a position I learned later wasn’t really that worthy of worship!). Nik and I have met in various states–Texas, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Florida, and at completely random points over the years–including a visit to her now-Indiana home last summer. And there are others from those years of hello and goodbye at summer camp who I still see occasionally. But the probability of that being true of any one friendship is very, very low.
Though tonight I am a bit teary-eyed thinking about all of the goodbyes (see-you-laters), a smile still plays at the corner of my mouth as I consider the few friendships that may last a lifetime, and the potential new friendships that will spring up in the place of the ones that fade. (Oh, and by the way, HOPAC is recruiting…come teach with me for a few years and be one of my new friends here next year! Check out the current needs list here!). I know that life may seem a bit lonely for awhile, but that it is a season, and seasons pass. And perhaps most of all, in the words of the song by Chris Tomlin that has been playing on my heart strings since returning to Tanzania after Christmas break, I know that I have a good, good Father, and that I am loved by Him.
LATER EDIT/NOTE: About a week after writing this post (after saying yet another goodbye) I realized that part of the reason I hate goodbyes is one of the many tendencies of third-culture-kids that I happen to exhibit (most likely as a result of being a “summer camp kid”): It is very easy for me to “go deep” and get emotionally invested in relationships in short amounts of time. This isn’t an altogether bad thing. The more negative flip side of it is that I “go deep”–but only to a certain level, because I instinctively know that the goodbye is coming.