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Photo by Celia Mitchell (2015/16 Semester Photo Contest Entry), Indonesia Semester.

Goodbyes

Goodbyes are one of the hardest things to do, especially for someone as indecisive and sentimental as I am, when suddenly there are a million things you want to say racing around your head and no amount of time seems to be enough. As someone who hates crying in front of other people, I’ve always considered myself lucky that I never really had to deal with goodbyes or open myself up to vulnerability, something I saw as a sign of weakness. Even when I said goodbye to my parents back in August and watched them walk away from me for the first time in my life, knowing that I wouldn’t see them again for nine long months, I refused to cry until I was back in the comfort and quiet of my own room. I guess not allowing myself to give into my emotions has always been my method of self-preservation.

When I first arrived at Princeton back in August, I’ll admit I was terrified. But at the end of the day what comforted me was the fact that I was surrounded by six other people who were feeling the same way I was. I knew that if I was to make it through Bridge Year, I would have to rely on these strangers as I did my family back home, and at first that idea was as alien and foreign as the country we were travelling to. There we were, seven people from seven completely different walks of life, united only by the fact that we were about to embark on a completely new and life-changing adventure together. Nobody else could ever truly understand what we’d been through except the seven of us who’d shared every experience and every memory, each of us taking a piece for our own. No matter how hard things got, I knew they had my back. So when Marissa announced she was leaving the first week of March, a part of me felt betrayed. I never expected that I would have to say goodbye to the person whose friendship had sustained and supported me through the last six months. It felt like I was losing something important, like an entire chunk of my life here was being ripped away.

But as much as I thought my remaining time here would change, I’ve realized that I have also changed. I’m a much stronger person than the girl who said goodbye to her parents back in August. I’m better at adapting to situations, especially ones that make me uncomfortable. I have much stronger connections with the other people here than I could have even imagined. On Bridge Year, I’ve cried more times than I can count, regardless of who’s watching. I’ve learned it’s cathartic to break down and let it all out in the moment instead of keeping it bottled up like I usually did. And I’ve learned that this vulnerability is not a sign of a weakness at all, but rather a sign of strength. A sign that I have grown brave enough to not only face my emotions head on, but also to be open enough not to shield them from others. To not hide behind a façade, but to embrace the bad parts, to celebrate fear and sadness and loss and emptiness as passionate and necessary parts of life, and especially of this experience. And in turn this acceptance has also taught me how to truly appreciate the good; every happy moment, every precious memory is only made that much happier, and that much more precious. So I have decided not to dwell on the sadness of this newest goodbye and not to think of it as an end, but instead as a new beginning. A new chapter of the experience. A new door to open and pass through, a new mountain to climb over.

I miss you, Marissa, but I’m so thankful for the moments I got to share with you and I wouldn’t trade them for anything. I’ll see you soon!