The end of any semester will cause increased stress at a college or university. Final exams, papers, presentation, group projects... But the end of a Spring semester brings with it a special kind of bittersweet stress: the goodbye. Working at UW for the last umpteen years hasn't made it any easier.
I have watching people come and go. Countless friends have left town to begin their own "grown-up" lives. To start careers. To travel around the world. To join the Peace Corps. To get married. For whatever reason, people leave. It's the nature of the beast at institutions of higher learning. And it's always hard on people, myself included. This year is another tough one.
One of the biggest perks I enjoy is watching students grow and develop during their time here. Who knows...I may have even helped one or two of them do so. ;) They grow up right before my eyes. They find passion, they become involved, they learn, they speak up. I've watched Travis graduate twice now. He became a leader on campus, and helped secure the future of many groups on campus. Scotty used to look down his nose at "the rainbow queers" who were "in your face" and "pushy." Then he joined the Spectrum board, AIDS Walk, and is looking at a career helping AIDS patients. Keith was one of Travis' "straight" friends. Now he's come out to his parents and helped coordinate some amazing queer events on campus. But now it's time for Travis to become a lawyer, Scotty a personal trainer, and Keith a full-time nerd at the AHC. It's the way it needs to be. We all have to continue to "become."
They also become family. That's what really makes the leaving so difficult. I'll miss the random phone calls to meet someone for a martini at Tommy Jacks or a fishbowl at Mingles. I'll miss bottles of wine and our favorite TV show. I'll miss planning events and wondering how in the world we're gonna pull something off. I'll miss lunches at Sweet Melissa's or listening to a friend at Jefferey's. I'll miss seeing people on a regular basis. Miss the ability to get together randomly on a moment's notice when one of us has had a bad day...or needs to celebrate. Seeing Kristen at the Cowboy. Hearing Scotty's laugh in the office.
The logical part of my brain tells me that leaving doesn't always mean an end. Phones exist. Most folks aren't moving across the continent, but it sure as hell feels that way. I travel. They can travel too. Visits are possible. But I'm not sure I'm ready for things to change. AGAIN. And the logical part of my brain isn't really in control right now. It's my heart, which is once again aching at the thought of people drifting out of my life, even if it's slowly. There are so many who have left before, and we talk once or twice a year. We email once in a blue moon. When we do, we still feel that connection, that link. The family-ness. But it's different. Disconnected somehow, or at least strained. When we catch up, it's the guilt you feel for not knowing or being there when something bad happened. It's the disappointment for not being there to celebrate and share in the good times. For me, it's mostly about not having a part of my everyday life that I've come to depend on.
I don't have an answer for you all today, or even any sage wisdom. I'm feeling at a loss this time of year, as I always do. Amazing people moving on, and moving forward, is a good thing. But it still hurts. And then again, maybe that IS wisdom. Let it hurt a little. Be a little sad. Be a little worried. The pain and the fear of loss is a reminder to hold on to what you have. And a sign that you've been doing something right. Otherwise it wouldn't hurt so much when good people leave.
I love you with all my heart.