Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Moving, Goodbyes and Lessons

Originally Posted in the Common Threads Blog,
Centre Daily Times on July 18, 2007

Life in a university town is marked by the constant cycles of seasons, and also by the cycles of semesters and graduations. Cycles which bring change with them, moving people in and out of town, all to start new lives.

I came to Penn State during one such cycle - after twenty years of living in the same city, amidst family and friends.

The importance of those I left behind became fully visible, only when they were rendered physically invisible by my move.

Now, after 20 years in State College, I am used to friends, acquaintances and others moving away. And the landscape of my routines changes, for the better or the worse, due to these moves.

Some who move keep in touch – some love their new home, others still yearn for State College.

My husband handles several goodbyes each year – a professional hazard in his job as a professor.

Particularly hard for him are the partings with graduate students, whom he has advised for four or five years.

I see him, happy and proud as a "parent," when they land their jobs. And I also see him sad about their inevitable departure from State College.

It is a familiar routine at our house, to have students call, to tell us they are leaving that day – and whether they could stop by, for one last time, sometimes with their families, to say their goodbyes. We bid them farewell, knowing that we may never meet up again.

This summer, he is saying goodbye to four graduate students – and realizes that having experienced it before does not make him a veteran. For each goodbye is different, and a reminder of the relentless passage of time.

My eight year old daughter has lost some friends to such moves. She does better than us - enjoying her friends while they are here, and dealing with their moves with a resilient spirit. She is happy as long as she is not the one moving.

These moves force us to deal with the only constant in all our lives – the constancy of change. They teach us to savor the only guaranteed thing in our lives - the present moment, and all that exists in it. And they remind us to use that present moment well.

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