There’s something that you all should know about me right away. I find relationships critically important. Being in community is what helps us navigate the ocean of life. For me, relationships is what gives me the vitality and courage to shoulder the weight of the world, and push through whatever it is I’m working through. There are a variety of different types of relationships. There are some that last a lifetime, and some that last only for seasons. There is nothing wrong with the ones that only last for seasons.
Anyone who has lived past the age of ten understands that some friendships do not last. That can be caused by a number of factors including but not limited to: distance, interest in different things, business with work and other social groups, etc. Thankfully because of social media and technology, we can keep many relationships afloat through constant contact through Facebook or text. However, in many cases, the relationship still changes. And the close intimate thing that was a friendship has turned into something a little more deluded.
As sad as that is, it’s still okay that these things happen. The critical part is that shift is recognized: to look at the change dead in the face and say to your friend, “I know this is happening, you know it’s happening, this season is coming to end. It’s time to say goodbye.”
I feel that some folks have lost this ability because of technology. Technology has become an excuse of “This isn’t goodbye, it’s a ‘See You Later.’ But it isn’t just a “See You Later.” There is a change happening. The dynamic is shifting. A season is ending, if not the relationship. Allow me to give you an example.
I’m particularly thinking of the opening and closing of relationships because my alma mater Fresno Pacific University just kicked off the fall semester, and many of my friends are getting back into the school grind. I was a Resident Assistant for my Junior and Senior year of college, and I developed meaningful relationships with twenty some-odd guys. I hold these guys close to my heart to this day.
When it came to the end of my senior year, a realization hit me: “My relationship to these great guys is going to drastically change.” I wasn’t going to be their RA anymore. A good handful of them were going to become RAs themselves, investing in their own residents. I wasn’t going to be on campus anymore: planning events, hosting weekly meetings, initiating important conversations on campus. All of that was going to end. Sure, I was going remain friends with most of them thanks to social media and technology, but it was still going to be very different. That needed to be acknowledged. This chapter of the relationship needed to close.
And so I did. The last meeting, I gave parting words to them. Encouraging them as they moved forward and lived the rest of their life. I clearly communicated that my season with them was ending so that their seasons could begin. My time as an RA was over. It was time for others to step into my place. It was time for others to do the event planning, relationship building, and culture creating on FPU’s campus. Because I gave that sort of closure to my residents, I was able to open a new chapter. I was able to establish friendships with most of these guys outside of me being their RA, and it truly has been a blessing.
Even when you know that you’re going to have a relationship with the person later, recognizing the change is critical. By clearly communicating what’s going on leaves no ambiguity between either individual. No one is tragically suspended in a fog of limbo. They know where the relationship is, and where it is going. Saying farewell is oh so important.
There is a powerful image in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi that pounds into this idea. If you haven’t read it, it’s one of my top book recommends. It is a wonderful image of the human journey. And if you’re concerned about spoilers, stop reading this post. Unfortunately I’m a literature major, which means I’ve dealt with spoilers throughout my entire education. Thankfully, there is more reasons to read literature than just for plot.
At the end of the novel, after a mind-boggling amount of time attempting to survive at sea, Richard Parker the tiger and Pi breach onto Mexico. They have gone through excruciating trials and developed a deep connection. They struggled upon the sand. Richard Parker, not even looking at his companion, turned into the jungle and disappeared. To this Pi reflected:
I wept like a child. It was not because I was overcome at having survived my ordeal, though I was . . . I was weeping because Richard Parker had left me so unceremoniously. What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order. Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape . . . It’s important in life to conclude things properly. Only then you can let go. Otherwise you are left with words you should have said but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse. (285)
Relationships demand meaning. We must find the words and heart to speak into those relationships. Recognize when things are ending, and address it so that no one is left with remorse. There is strength in being able to say goodbye, even if that just means goodbye to a season of a friendship, like I did for my residents. I’m still friends with my residents, but there was closure that still needed to take place. It’s vital to express how important those people are to you, and what you see in them that is so incredibly valuable.
Now of course, this should not be the only time you give meaningful shape to your relationships. One should always be intentional with relationships from beginning to end. I just want to particularly speak about the end because it is the most difficult. But I promise you: when you are intentional about not only the beginning of your relationships, but the ends, you will find yourself more at peace.
Thanks for reading.