A week before Christmas, I had a moment that made me feel as though my life should have been part of a movie. I was standing on a hill in Brookline with the Boston skyline completely laid out in front of me, joined by a friend that four months ago, was a complete stranger. It was one of those views that cause conversation to cease. It was so quiet and I felt so much.
What I remember from that night was the stark contrast between the beautiful view and the heavy weight pressing down on me. When I met the person next to me, it was summer and we wore t-shirts and swam, and now it was below freezing. There were dim Christmas lights around us and snow and the impending sense that our days were numbered. This person – who I had shared meals and music and laughter with – would soon call another place home, creating the chance that we could start right where we began: as strangers.
The goodbye I was about to face was one of many that have taken place the last two years. As I looked out onto the city, I didn’t see landmarks or the names of buildings. I recognized what was below me not by their names, but by what I did there and the people I was with – people that for the most part, are no longer here in Boston with me. The lights below were fueled by memories and every former version of myself from the past six years.
The hardest part of forging my own path is the distance, and realizing I cannot take everyone with me. Up until 21, I was blanketed by the comfort of proximity. There was a set mile radius that never expanded much beyond my hometown, or my high school, or my dorm room, where the people I loved were nestled in a tight cocoon around me.
And then all of a sudden, life is quickly overtaken by motion. People start whizzing by, chasing after careers or family or romance or perhaps the exact opposite: leaving as a means to get away, not move towards. As people move, I, in my own way, am moving, too – from jobs and relationships and old ways of thinking.
As I have learned to let go and say goodbye, my heart has become pulled in countless different directions and I suddenly have these connections to states, and schools, and professions that I had previously never given much thought to. I often myself thinking of these foreign cities as people, hoping they cushion, protect and take in my friends the same way I would if I were there.
The goodbyes of the last two years have led to some of the loneliest feelings I have ever experienced, but all the changes and the departures and re-entries and introductions are what have made me so connected to this place.
Nearly everywhere I walk in Boston triggers this stunning yet painful awareness of experiences with people who are now spread out beyond these fifty square miles: A tree where I kissed someone close to me, a restaurant where I celebrated my 22nd birthday with my two oldest friends, an old apartment I used to live in, a train station where I used to meet someone who I called mine.
There are times when looking at the inanimate objects are too painful, making me homesick for a space and time that may never exist again. And yet, these connections to Boston and these memories are daily reminders of the intricate relationships I have built throughout my time here and more importantly, their significance.
It is only through goodbyes that I have learned what makes a place home. It is a place that can draw such an ineffable joy because something happened, and a ridiculous sorrow because it ended, all at the same time. A place that makes you feel something by just being in it, or looking at it from afar on top of a snowy hill.
Bittersweet nostalgia has made Boston a part of me. It is so quiet and I feel so much.