I’ve thought so much about nostalgia over the years. At first I thought it was just missing an object - friends, family, a home, your bed. Then maybe it was missing what that object meant to you because it was still present but somehow changed - friendship, kinship, relationships. Or perhaps, as I’m more recently thinking, it’s a different type of desire — for an object that you need to distance yourself from in order to move onto something new - new friendships, new kinships, new relationships. Nostalgia, in that final sense, is maybe an optimistic detachment. A holding at a fond distance the things that made you who you were, and did so in a way that enabled you to become who you are.
Which brings me to the goodbyes. I’m going to be honest and say that I’ve been more freaked out than excited about going to a PhD program. The notion of transplanting myself to another coast, living in a city I’ve never been to, literally gave me sleepless nights.
But into that feeling of drowning came goodbyes like a life-line. How odd that saying goodbye could make me more ready to leave. These good farewells felt like closing a satisfying book, one that you could pick up again and read knowing you would get something different from it the next time around. The best so far was my thesis adviser, who corded me at an Honors ceremony, and later looked me dead in the eye and expressed the following sentiments in words I’ll never be able to remember: you’re awesome, I’ve loved working with you, we’ll continue working together. All of that ceremony, and her words in particular, made me realize that this goodbye foreshadowed the type of mentoring relationships I’ll cultivate in New York: it makes leaving not only bearable, but necessary for my personal growth, and downright exciting.
I have one more huge goodbye, split into two parts. The speech team I’ve helped coach for 3 years. It’s hard for me to think of them as students anymore; they’re more a herd of little brothers and sisters and cousins. Saying goodbye to them means saying goodbye to the community that compelled me to study Anthropology, and then propelled me into grad school. It also means saying goodbye to some of the more personal relationships I’ve established. I have no idea how I will feel tomorrow, but I hope I walk away with a sense that I could do it all again, better; that I can contribute to the lives of students through anthropology; that I have been a positive force in the lives of others. Selfishly, I hope that tomorrow cultivates, renews, and seals the sense of purpose coaching has given me. I wish all my students the best in their future endeavors too, and that their goodbyes are well spent.