I’m sitting in a Starbucks alone, and my thoughts wander back to the people and places which have graced my life. The memories bring a smile, but also a little pain. I remember the words of a lady that I met back in my 20s when I was a shiny new military spouse:
“I don’t make friends,” said this ‘senior’ spouse with aplomb.
What? I couldn’t even process what she meant.
She went on. She’d done this military gig for 20 years. She was tired of the goodbyes. It hurt too much…so her solution?
Don’t make friends.
I was astonished by her words at the time, but now, with the passing of (cough cough) a lot of years, I get it. I mean, I can understand her feelings, but I’ve never been able to follow through and “just say no” to friends and new experiences. As an extroverted people person, I don’t think I’m capable of it, actually. But even though I know better now what to expect, the hurt of saying goodbye doesn’t get easier the more I do it. In some ways, it’s felt increasingly difficult, whether it’s the third or ninth or thirteenth move. Probably because I know exactly what’s coming.
But if you and I were talking over coffee about the toll that moving can take on a person and family, I would still try to encourage you. This relocating that seems to be an inherent part of military life isn’t easy. But it can be oh, so worth it. I imagine that you might bring up one of the following points, so let’s talk about it. I hope all the goodbyes I’ve said over the years to friends, family, and places might be some help to you with your future ones.
You know how final it is. Goodbyes hurt. There is no getting around that. But the alternative would be to have no one to say goodbye to, and I think that would be infinitely more painful. Anyway, I hate the word goodbye so much that I now refuse to say it. “See you later” works much better. Plus, with military life, you just never know.
You’ll never have a friend as good as your best friend right now. My grandmother had a saying (which I’m pretty sure originated with the Girl Scouts),
Make new friends but keep the old.
One is silver, the other is gold.
A circle is round, it has no end.
That’s how long I will be your friend.
While a bit cliché, there’s a lot of truth to it. Saying hello to new friends doesn’t mean saying goodbye to old ones. There’s room for both. And don’t discount how quickly you can bond over shared experiences. Some of my best friendships—friends I know I’ll always keep in touch with—have been forged over relatively short time spans. A year in a remote assignment or months walking through a deployment together has a way of creating fast friends, and while it’s a method I wouldn’t necessarily recommend, it simply can’t be duplicated.