My mother and youngest brother flew into town this weekend to attend the REELSTORIES Film Festival and support my film, “Iris.” It was great having them here; being from Cincinnati, my visits with family have become increasingly few and far between. Just having them around was a blessing. But something hit me when I said goodbye to them Sunday night.
I am the second oldest of four boys. When I was a freshman in high school, I saw my oldest brother go off to college. I kept it cool as he hugged me, threw his backpack in the car, then drove down the road. And then I cried. It was hard. I’d only known life with him in the house.
The first time I visited him on a long weekend, I specifically remember playing a numbers game with our time together. Friday night, we still have two whole nights to hang out and three whole days. Sunday afternoon, we still have the car ride to the airport to hang out and talk. That’s 40 minutes at least.
I remember the heartache I had when I said goodbye to him again. It killed me. Almost eight years later, I’ve had to see my youngest brother experience those emotions every time he visits me; except for him, it never gets any easier. And as I near graduation, it’s not getting easier for me either.
I’ve noticed that life can be broken down into a series of emotional goodbyes. In between those farewells, we meet people and build relationships that will hopefully grow strong enough to elicit such emotional goodbyes later down the line. I’m not saying that to be a downer. I’m saying that because it’s what I think is true.
I said goodbye to dear friends when I went off to a different high school. My classmates and I parted ways when we went to college. As my immediate family has begun to spread out, each time we’re back together, the awareness of an eventual, bittersweet goodbye looms like a shadow.
I saw it in my brother this weekend. I could tell he wanted to drag out our time together as much as he could. I could tell because I was doing the same thing. But what I realized this weekend was that these moments of sadness and bittersweet “see you laters” are the moments when I feel most human and alive. I absolutely hate them more than anything, but I know a painful goodbye is simply the heart recognizing the worth of time spent with someone of value. After all, it’s not hard to say goodbye to someone you don’t like.
I am aware those goodbyes and “see you laters” are going to increase as my time at Pepperdine wraps up. I’m trying to stay positive and reassure myself that the existence of these unfortunate moments are proof that my time here was worth something.
There’s a fear with each subsequent heartfelt goodbye that perhaps next time — if there is a next time — things won’t be exactly the same. But there are people in my life right now who I love, and I wish I could bottle this present joy. I wish we could all grow, and yet not grow apart. I’m determined to solve this problem before I graduate.
Follow Ben Holcomb on Twitter: @BenjaminHolcomb