Is This What They Call Growing Pains?

It was barely two years ago that I found myself sitting in the passenger seat of Fancy Photographer Aaron’s SUV in the parking lot of my favorite soft-serve ice cream place in suburban MoCo. We watched the sun disappear behind trees and an ugly bank building. I bought a huge sundae that I never finished because I was too busy being sad and talking about being sad. That night I said goodbye to one of my best friends. Fancy Photographer Aaron left for Georgia to study photography. And other good friends scattered across the country for college too–from California, to Pennsylvania, to New York, to Illinois and everywhere else in between, even Europe. But it was okay because I knew we’d come home for breaks and it’d be like the good old times all over again.

That was all fine and dandy for a while. But now that I’m five days away from what I consider to be old age (twenty years could very well be a quarter of my life!), I’ve realized I don’t have that same comfortable reassurance that I’ll see friends and loved ones again soon.

In the spirit of thinking I’m one tough chick, I figured I could handle this sort of thing. I mean, I’ve dealt with not seeing family for years at a time! I’ve got my momma and my dad here in the states, and the rest of my family is in Europe. Sure, I’ve had grandmothers come to visit for summers, but, until recently, I went six years without seeing uncles, aunts and my cousin. It wasn’t an easy thing to do, though you learn to cope eventually and you make a make-shift family and it’s all manageable… for a little while at least. Then reality bites you in the ass and it dawns on you that a make-shift family isn’t forever–heck, it’s less permanent than a real family!

It’s been a rough few months of realizing how temporary this little make-shift family of mine really is. Each week brings more of this:

“I’m moving to LA in the fall, and with any luck, living there for good!”

“Not coming back for summer, interning in New York.”

“Hoping to be in London for the summer!”

“Moving to Miami in a week.”

What are you trying to do to me, world?! I like these people! Stop taking them away from me. I’m supposed to get what I want, remember? Is anyone up there listening?

What makes it worse is that I’m not alone in this icky-ness. I guess that’s what I get for having a lot of older friends–I’ve put aside my own troubles many a time this month to console others going through the same thing. You’d think it’d make me feel better–we’re all lonely together, right? NO. It just makes it seem more inevitable! Everyone loses everyone else. PERPETUAL LONELINESS. How utterly depressing.

A good friend and sorority sister recently explained her belief on why people leave our lives. She told me that they’re only there as long as they can serve a purpose and they walk out when you’ve learned and grown as much as you can from knowing them. The romantic in me refuses to believe that. I’ve had my two best friends, my sisters, since third grade! And I swear to goodness, world, if you ever take them out of my life, we’re going to have a big problem.

Boston

My "home"?

Except I’m already 400 miles removed from them… and a few weeks ago I decided to not go back home for the summer myself. Calling Boston home is easier every day. So I’m already the biggest hypocrite ever in writing this blog entry. My poor father is probably sitting at home, laughing at his computer screen while reading this because I’m doing exactly what I’m complaining about. Sorry, daddy! At least, I’m sorry if you feel the way I do about my own absence from home. But not sorry for the complaining. Never sorry for complaining–I do that very well, my dad would agree.

And on we go with it… it’s just a little terrifying. I don’t deal well with goodbyes to begin with. I think they make me physically ill. My head hurts, my stomach tosses and, embarrassingly enough, I think I actually sweat more. Goodbyes make all this anxiety well up in the pit of my tummy and tension seizes my stiff shoulders. There’s physical pain involved in knowing goodbyes loom in the near future. In conclusion: friends, if you care about my well-being, never leave me.

Okay, okay, unrealistic expectation, I know.

This is what old age (yes, I still maintain 20 is fucking old) is all about it seems. With every passing year, little bits of your heart scatter further and further away and you can’t do jack shit about it. With all this going on, I keep looking back at this past summer when I got to spend a month in Europe just being with family I hadn’t seen in ages. There were many happy memories, naturally. But also a few sad, sorrowful ones–you know, the kind that involve saying goodbye. Leaving my grandmother was the hardest. She lives alone on the top floor of an apartment building close to the center of Tuzla. I remember walking through the rooms one last time to soak in everything and noticing all the framed photographs lining bedside tables and dressers. They were photos of the faces that keep my grandmother company. They were the faces of her daughter, my mother, who has found her home state-side; her son, who lives in Australia; and her parents, who are long gone. I was somewhere in the crowd of photographs too but it didn’t seem like enough. I wanted to take myself as I was in that moment, squeeze into a glass frame and nail myself to a wall in her bedroom. But I couldn’t. Instead, I squeezed myself into the backseat of a stuffy taxi when my uncle came to pick me up for the airport. My grandmother was left alone to go back to an apartment full of photographs.

I can’t help but think that this is all we’re reduced to in the end–photographs. Maybe we keep saying goodbye until there aren’t any more people to say goodbye to. Gosh, when did I get to be so morbid?! Hopefully it gets easier. There’s gotta be some silver lining right?

… still looking for it. Maybe I’ll find it in the bottom of this bag of Cadbury Eggs I’m munching on. No? Well, no harm in trying.

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