​Saying Goodbye: Part 1

There are many circumstances in which we must say goodbye to friends in our lives. I’m not referring to the permanent kind—perhaps I’ll write on that another time. I don’t claim to be a subject matter expert (not that anyone would ever claim to be such a thing on such a depressing matter), but working in the Department of Corrections for a decade and having spent 15 years in the military I have had more than enough experiences of friends and acquaintances passing on into eternity. I digress. 

On to the matter at hand. Have you ever had a coworker you really got along with especially well? You worked together for a few years and just enjoyed being on the job with them day in and day out. Then one day that person approaches you and informs you that they’re going off to pursue their lifelong dream of becoming an actor. You hold back the laughter, realize that they’re being serious, and wish them well in their journey while you go back to reality and back to “the grind”. Of course, you’ll miss that person and enjoy the times you’ve had working together. But before long each of you will move on. 

The scenario pictured above is fairly common. Replace the reason for departing with any one of the multiple reasons for someone leaving a job. The period of disappointment varies after the fact—sometimes longer, sometimes mere moments.

I’ve recently had the fortunate experience of saying goodbye to a dear friend of mine. I’ll explain later on why I say “fortunate”, but first allow me to explain the dynamic between this friend and me. I don’t remember the first time I met Chris. He was just another dude wearing ABU’s (Airman Battle Uniform) who was working in another section in my squadron. We became instant friends. Maybe that’s why I don’t remember the first time we met; it just feels like we’ve always been friends. 

Chris is just about everything you look for in a friend. He’s reliable, he’s humble, he’s kind (but he’ll also be the first to laugh at you). He’s a good dude. You know the type. I once saw him stand up to his supervisor who was belittling his entire team, because of a mistake the supervisor committed. Chris wouldn’t tolerate that. Hours later I heard him respond to the same supervisor in a respectful tone, “Yes, Master Sergeant. I’ll get that done.” That’s who Chris is. He’s the kind of guy who respects the authority over him and, at the same time, will not tolerate being abused by said authority. From someone who shares the same beliefs, let me tell you that balancing that interconnection is not easy to do. 

As you’ve probably figured out by now, Chris and I are were in the United States Air Force Reserves together. We would meet up once a month to train in dirty Jersey and marvel at how we felt instantly oppressed immediately crossing the state line from Pennsylvania into New Jersey. We would work together (and avoid work together) and eat together two days out of the month. In 2019-2020 we deployed together for 8 months. I use the term “deployed” carefully. I’ve been on some real deployments, and I’ve been on some vacations. Honestly, each experience is different for everyone. And when one person is handling it well, there’s someone else who isn’t. My rule of thumb is this: if you’ve never deployed then you haven’t earned a right to comment. Moving forward. 

I know Chris fairly well. We’ve spent a lot of time together and we share a lot of the same values. Fact is I’ve known and said goodbye to too many Chris’s. Leger, Montemayor, Cortez, Moore, Bergman, Carrero, Midkiff, Petricki, the list goes on. They’ve all left lasting impressions on me. I can say, for me, that the number one trait that makes these guys so uncommon is their selflessness.

It’s the assessment of a friend’s character in introspect to yourself that makes saying goodbye such a fortunate experience. When I took the time to digest the fact that one of my good friends is moving to a new chapter in his life—one that does not include the continuation of our friendship in the same capacity that we’re familiar with—it forced me to realize what kind of a friend I was going to miss having around. It made me realize my own shortcomings in selflessness. And while it’s not a pleasant thing to be reminded of one’s shortcomings, it is an opportunity for growth.

So, Chris is moving away—not for some waterfall he’s chasing or an irrational whim. Chris is bound for Colorado due to a career advancement and is moving to a location that is more suitable for raising his family. We’ll be in touch and we’ll go on with our lives. And, I can guarantee we’ll both be saying goodbye to someone else in our lives again and again. Someone once said, “It’s not about how much time you have with someone, it’s about how you spend the time with someone that matters.” 

Have circumstances or friendships changed in your life recently? Were you fortunate enough to make it an opportunity of personal growth? If not, I encourage you to take a moment and meditate on how you can improve from an otherwise negative instance in your life.