“What’s the big deal?” my dad asked. “You’ll see them all in a month,” he reassured me.
We pulled away from my summer residence at BC, car filled to the brim with nearly everything I own. I had just spent the better part of the past hour saying a heartfelt goodbye to each of my 43 summer coworkers. My dad had a point, though: I would see them again in a month. So why was this goodbye so much more difficult than the thousands of other goodbyes I’ve said throughout my life?
Part of it is that I had woken up at 6:30 a.m. to pack up all my belongings, and was still half delirious. Part of it is that I was departing for a journey abroad to London later in the week, and knew that I had precisely three days to unpack everything I was bringing home, only to repack most of the same necessities in a different suitcase that conformed to the airline’s luggage limitations. Part of it is that these people were not just my coworkers, they had become my friends—a few of whom I would even consider some of my closest friends.
Yet, the reason this goodbye was hitting me so hard is that I knew this one was more final than most others. The experience from which I was parting cannot and will not be replicated.
I had spent the past eight weeks living, working and spending most of my free time with 43 incredible individuals, most of whom I would have never crossed paths with were it not for this position. This was the last time we would all be together.
While these goodbyes certainly do not represent the end of the collection of individual relationships, the acknowledgement that we would not be able to maintain the group cohesion we had cultivated over the course of the summer was disheartening to say the least.
In considering the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts, the collective, permanent goodbye is made so much more meaningful than its personal, temporary counterpart. Additionally, since it is impossible to conceptualize an abstract notion such as a group dynamic, it becomes much harder to envision the significance of its dissipation.
I do not mean to make my own experience sound overly dramatic. Despite being divided by on- and off-campus housing, RA positions and abroad plans, I will of course have many opportunities to continue the relationships developed this summer in the coming year and beyond.
Regardless, it is important to acknowledge what one is leaving behind when saying goodbye. Often it means no more than an exchange of pleasantries, yet sometimes it represents something much more absolute.