I hate pickles, but I kept a pickle jar on my kitchen counter this summer. (Don’t worry, I washed it.) One of my friends started keeping a stash of food for when she came over for movie nights and potlucks — the pickles were part of that. More quickly than I imagined, I developed a tight-knit group of intern friends who stuck by my side through the good, the bad and the stomach bugs. The friendships developed fast with all the symptoms of a new relationship — random belongings scattered across the apartment, late-night phone calls and dinners with visiting parents.
But as my group of girls laughed into the night and cried in each others’ arms, I felt this nagging feeling in the pit of my stomach. All of this had an expiration date. We only had 10 weeks. Then, we’d be scattered across the country, or, in the case of my friend in Scotland, across the pond. We’d revert to our home and school lives, looking back fondly but knowing that things would never be the same.
Sundays were my favorite. On the cusp of a new week, I simultaneously wanted time to stand still and for the weeks to pass. I wanted to stay in the humid Atlanta heat for months but also yearned to reunite with the people I love most. I wanted to sit with my summer roommate at the kitchen counters, sharing a cup of cofee as we poured over the style section of The New York Times. I wanted to be on my friend’s front porch watching thunderstorms travel into the night. I didn’t want visits from school friends to end, and counted down the days until I would see them again. I felt tugged in both directions, and didn’t know which I wanted more. Inevitably, I’d sacrifice seeing some friends so I could see others.
The fluidity of friendship has always scared me. I value consistency and commitment; situational friendships seem contrary to those values. Why invest in someone when you know it won’t last? I took a similar approach in high school. Why date when I was about to graduate without looking back?
As the word “senior” suddenly spreads throughout my inbox, I reflect on these same questions. My friends separated by only a short walk, a courtyard, a floor, will soon be a drive, a train, a plane away. As job offers from the summer poured in for my friends, I wanted to celebrate, but a part of me was devastated. Already, my friends were scattered across the country. I felt selfish for not wanting them to travel so far, overcome with panic at all the goodbyes I would soon have to make.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Why ruin the present moments worrying so much about the future? It seems obvious, but most of our Yale careers seem geared toward planning for the days, months and years ahead, making it di cult to appreciate the present independently. I’m learning to live in the moment, to recognize that if I don’t see someone tomorrow or in a few months, our todays are no less valuable. I can’t say what the future will bring no matter how much I plan or how many timelines I make or agendas I write. If anything, I’ll appreciate the friendships I have now even more.
I am so lucky. Lucky to have people whom I love and who love me generously in return. Lucky to have people that make saying goodbye so hard. Love and friendship don’t last forever, no matter how much we wish they did. But I’m not inclined to half-heartedly commit to something that makes me so ridiculously happy, even if I only get to experience it for a short while. If anything, I’m inclined to invest more, because relationships that count are the ones that need work.
When my classmate drove out of sight after his visit this summer and I gloomily returned to my apartment, I smiled at the pickle jar that sat on the counter, an ode to friends both new and old, friends who would stay with me wherever I was. Meeting new friends this summer pushed me to stay connected with old ones — friends from college, friends from high school, even friends from a weeklong summer program a full two years ago with whom I happened to stay in touch. Through simple acts such as sharing an article or talking to them through earbuds on a morning walk, I was reminded that the people I love are only as far away as I let them be. Scheduling times to talk felt artificial, but I realized that it was necessary to feel like my loved ones were constants in my life.
Goodbyes are messy, and so are friendships, and I can guarantee I will be sobbing for days straight when I have to leave this place that I call home. I’ll be crying after I walk the stage in two short semesters and say goodbye to the people who kept me sane these past four years. But I’ve decided to love my friends more fiercely. The goodbyes will sting more, but the reunions and memories will be so much sweeter.
Hala El Solh is a senior in Berkeley College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .