Hello on the last day of Spring,
Currently I am sitting outside Panera waiting for a former colleague, a treasured friend, and one of the most intelligent people I know to join me. I met them my first fall at Bloomsburg, and we have managed to stay in touch for all the time I have been at the university, in spite of their leaving the academy and now living almost entirely on the other side of the country. To maintain a meaningful friendship takes work, intentionality, and perhaps most importantly, an honest foundation from the outset. It will be nice to spend time with them.
Pondering what constitutes a friend is something that has caused me pause throughout my life, but even more so in the past year. Certainly those who have known me all my life have a different place, but how many of those who knew me since the single digits of my existence are still actively part of my daily world. As I go through the Rolodex of people, I think there is one. Seriously, one; and ironically, we did not grow close until perhaps 10 years after high school. There are the Facebook connections from childhood, and some for whom I am very grateful, but we are not friends.
If I consider my early 20s, there are two people, and one is still beyond special in my life. The two together remind me of the time I struggled mightily to figure how who I was. If it were not for their family, I am not sure where I might have gone. The group of people perhaps most important to me, though not really friends per se (and this is not the case across the board) are what most will refer to as their Dana family. The people at Dana I was closest to as a student are not really the closest to me now. The Dana people I closest to, in my estimation, were the people I acquainted with my senior year. That is more because of the changes I went through while I was at the University of Iowa. In fact, I am perhaps more connected to come faculty and others. As our lives transform, we alter preferences. We reimagine our own lives in a manner which at one time would have seemed unimaginable. Much of my life seems to be that as I reflect; and yet there are profound differences. I have had an oxymoronic week. The exchange student who began the year with me and was required to reassignment is leaving. The period of time since he left has been a rollercoaster of emotions and experiences. It has been a time of pain and growth for everyone. Over the last five days it has been a privilege to meet his mother and sister as well as his life-long best friend and the friend’s mother, which has been a friend to the exchange student’s mother for a quarter century. Trips to Jim Thorpe, Ricketts Glen, a swimming day, movies and meals have often some nice insight into his past 10 months. Conversations with the friend’s parent have been profound, insightful, stimulating, enjoyable, and even humorous. What a wonderful, albeit unexpected, joy. My hope was regardless the possible stress from the last 4 months I wanted to make sure the fetching contingent had a good time. It has taken some thought and patience, but I am thankful for the discipline I learned as a young person in the Marine Corps. It has served me well on a number of occasions and probably will into next week. It is amazing what observation can accomplish. A little critical thinking and analysis, as I tell my students, can do wonders.
I am grateful for another visit in July when Anton and his family will come to Bloomsburg. There are a couple of other trips on the horizon, but some planning yet to accomplish. Letting go of something is often related to a person and realizing what it is and the difference between the something and the someone can be difficult. It is tremendously or profoundly troublesome when emotions affect our thoughts. Age and experience should make it most possible, but that seldom translates into simplicity. I remember my father telling me after my divorce that those we love the most can hurt us the most profoundly or deeply. That is most certainly true. From time to time I have noted that my anger is most often felt when I hurt by someone I love. And yet, life without love would be devastatingly sad. Sometimes I wonder what it means to truly love someone. Is it that I am either merely mystified or that I am intrinsically incapable of this concept or feeling? During the visit, through conversation, observation, and perhaps even some transformation, I believe I have a much clearer understanding of many incidences, of responses (or lack there of) or even some genuine appreciation for what happened during the past year. The cultural differences were more significant, and those specific differences are so engrained in both cultures that even foundational elements of our daily practices did not seem logical. Perhaps I needed more understanding from the outset. On the other hand, some of the differences were worth chatting about. Some of the questions were never articulated on either side.
However, the reality that shone through this past two-week period is the differences that exist, in spite of familiarity. What is it that creates such a disparate process or reaction? Culture is certainly part of it. And the historical underpinning of that culture also shown through, and yet, in spite of profound similarities, the differences were as extreme as those resemblances. It is not about right or wrongs for me, it is about trying to comprehend. We are such amazing creatures in our humanity. One of the things I have had to spend considerable thought on is how to let go. It is possible to value people or experience too greatly? It is possible to feel some need that creates some irrepressible desire to keep us holding on to that which could do us disservice? More simply, is it misguided loyalty? And it that loyalty to person or event or to a concept?
Perhaps it is appropriate that I continue this post on Independence Day. The reality of my life is that I have few personal obligations, and that has been more true than not for over two decades. The concept of letting go, of moving on, has been something I have done pretty well. That is not necessarily something to be proud of, just so you know what I am thinking. There have been some exceptions, and I am grateful for both people and circumstances who or which have caused me pause. It is always good to be pulled out of one’s pattern. I can think of three or four people who still create an interruption of sorts in my daily practice or plan (if I can call it that). Perhaps yet another irony: none of them are American (well, one is, but I think I identify her as more from her ancestral homeland than from the States. I ponder how that has happened. What I know is there is so much more out there; so much that is more critical thinking, careful analysis, and yes, globally aware. Please do not think I am disavowing my patriotism or my citizenship, in spite of my current disillusionment with many significant things. I think the Founders of the country would be appalled by our current national persona, but I am still an American. Perhaps it is my age; perhaps it is my appreciation for yet another country and people. There is so much to learn; and learning is what rejuvenates me, what inspires me. This past two weeks I have been in spired to work and learn even more, even imagine other possibilities. While there is moving on, and to a degree letting go, the last 11 months have taught me a great deal. It has sometimes been joyful, sometimes painful, but investing in another person will create those situations. As with the first experience, a person came to me as a boy and leaves as a young man. My life is better for it. The meeting of cultures and others these past two weeks has been something I will forever remember. Each one of them has given me something important. I am blessed by all of it.
Thanks as always for reading
7 thoughts on “Letting Go – Moving On”
I think the term “friend” comes so easily to us when we are children because of the simplicity of the definition at that point, someone you enjoy playing with. As we get older and we begin to go through more trying events, and begin to lean on our friends, it becomes harder to be a friend for other people. What I believe I see in other people and myself as I get older is that I still keep contact with the friends of my childhood, but it is not the same relationship I have with more current friends. I do not go to my childhood friends to lean on them during difficult times, the relationships we have are more simple, and honestly refreshing.
When I think about letting go of things, especially certain times in life it feels like leaving behind people, but also mainly myself. When I look back at what I left behind when leaving high school I see a part of myself, or a version of myself that will always be there, and could not come with me as I took my next step. I see the same in my friends. I still talk to them and see them frequently when visiting home, but they are not the same people from when we were younger, they’re different, but not in a bad way.
I’ve never before considered the idea that the people we love the most are the ones who are able to hurt us the most, but hearing it definitely resonates with me. When we have people who we lean on and tell our problems to, it essentially gives them the ability to throw it back in our face, and coming from the person we trusted, there can not be a more awful feeling.
– Delaney Ditillo
Hello Dr. Martin,
I am going to be honest i read this post twice as it speaks to many aspects of my life. Many examples and instances that you brought up made emotions about love and friends enter into my mind. What is life without love? A boring one for sure, but why is it the people we love make us ache the most with pain. Friends that you don’t see to often and then get together like it was yesterday have to foundation of love that is so powerful, even if they are many miles away. Living in Pennsylvania on and off for the past 5 years has been taxing on many of my friendships and loved ones. As the years have gone by i have noticed that the true and important friends don’t care how much they get to see you , they just care about the quality of time whenever they get it.
Hello Dr. Martin,
This post really made me think about a problem that I have seemed to face for many years now since I first started high school. The definition of a “friend” has always led me to question what exactly I am looking for and how will I know when a find one. For a while, I have defined a friend as someone who has been around the longest. I found that although that may be a redeeming quality, it does not really mean anything. It has been extremely hard for me to realize that and seemingly “let go” of those people who have been around for a while but have not been there for me for a while.
Since I started at Bloomsburg, I think I have found many of my true and lifelong friends. I found people who I not only enjoy being around but miss when they are not around. One of the most important things about these friendships is that I think I have also found myself more. These select people have made my best qualities come out and make me feel more valued. In the future, I hope to look back to my 20’s and realize that this is the time when I made the most meaningful connections
I appreciated the fact that you took the time to go through and analyze the different places that your friends have shifted around in throughout your life. This is something that I can relate to a great deal as I have also experienced a lot of turmoil in my friendships.
When I was at my social peak during my junior year of high school I had a very large yet tightly knit friend group comprised of about ten individuals whom I had considered my very best friends. We went to the movies as a group, sat in the lunchroom as a group, went to the park as a group, tubing, kayaking, hiking; you name it and we did it. It was one of the most carefree times in my life and I thought that they would stay with me forever. My mom kept telling me “Enjoy these times while they’re in your life, because some people are only meant to stay with you for a season.” I, being an omniscient 17 year old, brushed off my mom’s words because of course they couldn’t apply to my friend group, we were so close! Little did 17 year old me know, she could not have been more right.
My 18th birthday party was a surprise. My mom had booked a ballroom from our family friend to use for the celebrations, and the room was filled with massive round tables with my favorite people in the world. One table in the very back of the room was filled with my friends who had to squish together like sardines so that all of them could sit together as one big happy family. I still have photos from that night on my camera roll, but that moment has faded away into simply a happy memory and recorded digital laughter from three years ago.
Last weekend, my little brother turned 18 as well. My mom booked the same room with the same big round tables for his celebrations, and I smiled as I saw all of his friends squished like sardines at the table in the back of the room to celebrate my little brother’s transition into adulthood. As I looked, I remembered that exact scene from three years ago with my own laughing friends, and then my mom’s cautionary words about how some friendships are not built to last. In that moment I realized that she was right, and only one person who was seated at that table at my 18th birthday party is still in my life today as I’m about to celebrate my 21st birthday.
Even though I have lost many people who I had once believed to be my forever family, I am grateful that they did. Many of them showed their true colors after years of friendship, and many of them simply just grew apart from me in their adult paths of life. I hold no animosity towards any of my former friendships, but they do serve as a reminder for me to pick my friends wisely, which I’ve cautiously followed while hand picking my current friend group as a college Junior. Every single one of my friendships; past, present, and future, have left irreversible impressions on me. For that, I am grateful.
– Molly Rhoads
When talking about friends, I hope I keep the connections I made in college. I still speak with very few friends from high school, which is no ones fault, life just took us separate ways. I enjoy being around these people so much, I’m scared life will just push us apart. They are not like people I have met before. I can really be myself around them, and go to them when I need help.
In high school, I too had an exchange student in my class. She was from Germany. We became very close to one another. I loved learning about where she was from. I also loved to introduce her to the things of America. We became so close, I wish my family would have hosted her in our house for the year. It was a sad day when the school year ended and she had to go back home. I vividly remember taking her to Walmart in the pouring rain to get stuff we only have here to take back with her. She promised that she would come back to visit the summer after we graduated high school. Unfortunately, because of COVID she was unable to come visit. Time has just passed and I do not really talk to her anymore. I still hopes that she comes back to visit us.
So many people have come and gone in my life. Even though some experiences were not the best, I still learned something from them. I do not regret those experiences because of the countless lessons I learned. Because of that, I continue to move on.
While reading your blog post about moving on and letting go, I could greatly relate to a lot of the themes written here. I have had a plethora of people in my life who were, at different times, considered great friends of mine. Almost all of them came to be via circumstantial reasons and almost all of the friends I have made I have also slowly faded away from. There are only a small handful of people in my life who I would consider great friends that I’ve known for a large chunk of my life. There were plenty of people in my life growing up that I assumed would be around forever, but for one reason or another, that was not the case and we are no longer in touch. I’m not a very big user of social media so perhaps I am missing out on opportunities to reconnect with, and stay in touch with, people from specific points in my life, however, that is due to my own personal views on social media and how it has affected me and why I now choose to stay off of it as much as I can.
I remember leaving one group of friends that I became very close with because I had to relocate to Pennsylvania, and instead of informing them I was leaving and being able to say our proper goodbyes, I hid this from them and left without notice. My reasoning for doing this was that I didn’t want to have to say goodbye. I figured it would be too hard and I didn’t want to have to go through that or have to put any of my very good friends through that. However, looking back on that decision, I realize that it was extremely selfish and nearsighted of me to do and left me with a large amount of guilt that eats me up inside when I think back to that time. I must now carry that weight with me for the rest of my life. I can accept this fact, and have used it as a lesson to ensure that something of that nature doesn’t happen again. I thought I was making the right call; I was moving on and doing so swiftly as if ripping off a bandaid as opposed to the slow peeling back that would just prolong the pain. This, unfortunately, was a wrong assessment by me.
I believe I have become wiser in my coming of age to realize my past mistakes, which has enabled me to create better and more meaningful friendships (even if they still are only momentarily). It is unrealistic to expect everyone you meet and who you get along with to stay in your life forever, but that is not what you should strive for in friendship or relationships. In my opinion, the best way to look at them is to attempt to have these relationships maximize their positive effects on your life/outlook on the world. If you can do that with as many of the relationships you will inevitably encounter, then you will be set up to be able to walk away from them and reminisce upon them with a smile.
While trying to find a blog post that I was intrigued by I ran into this specific blog “Letting go – moving on” and I just had to read it. There is so much in this post that I can relate to which is why I think I was intrigued by it at the very beginning when I first saw it. I think the word “friend” has numerous amounts of meanings depending on the person. For me personally, I think a friend is simply someone whom you conversate with once in a while even if you do not talk every day or keep up with each other’s lives. I even have some best friends whom I go months without talking to, but once we meet up again it was like the distance between us not talking vanished and we act like we never left each other. I do believe there is a difference between best friends and simply friends. Yes, I can meet up with a friend and conversate about each other’s lives, but it is not someone whom I would necessarily go to if I am having a difficult time or would want to share deep secrets with.
Letting go is something that I 100% have a hard time doing because I am a person who loves to love and when I have to move on from something I get upset, whether that is from a friendship, relationship, or something that I have to break a habit of I have a really hard time doing so. However, I 100% agree with your father when he said “those we love the most can hurt us the most profoundly or deeply” if you really start to think about it the reason why certain things or people hurt us more than others is because of the simple fact of how much love and attachment there is to that person or a specific thing. While we are going through the things that we go through in our normal routine in our lives I do not think we understand why things are happening the way that they are but later down the line, we realize why things happened. I do believe everything that happens to us there is a lesson to be learned from it. There is one quote that I like that is “some people are lessons, and some people are blessings” I hold much thought to that quote because it reminded me of your father’s quote. They both have different types of perspectives but ultimately mean the same thing. At the end of the day, I am also grateful for the good and bad things that have happened to me even if the bad things have made me sad because I know that in the future there are going to be better days and reasoning as to why everything happened the way that it did.