Saying Goodbye

Each year is an adventure of learning to say goodbye in a new way. At least for those of us who work in a profession that is predicated on pushing people to their own finish line and into the next phase of their life.

Students graduate or move off-campus, peers accept jobs and leave, people uproot the lives they used to know for something greater, something grander, something full of wonder and inspiration.

Some are ready to go, some go quietly, some with a bang, and some feel it in their bones. This time around, I’m feeling some of each. The last ten months have been quite a journey. Each day, a new challenge. Each week, more growth surrounding me. There were definitely times when I wore my heart on my sleeve. Times when I struggled in my own skin. Times when the smile on my face felt as genuine as it has ever been.

Retrospect provides opportunities to see ourselves in new ways. As closing week drew closer, I began to think about the people who were a part of my first year as a full-time professional. Gratitude is an understatement. The students I had the opportunity to work with challenged me and changed me. This is what makes goodbyes so hard: even when the natural calendar of things requires people to move, to shift, to leave, and even though I see the end coming every time, I learn to accept their presence and decide how much they mean to me. I know there’s no stopping the leaving. Staying would mean complacency, comfort, and routine. Plans are made and life changes shape as the anticipation of being gone creeps up.

And then they leave. The physical presence ceases. A void grows and I’m left alone trying to figure out the best way to love them from farther away.

This is for the 14 Resident Assistants, the Academic Peer Mentor, the Administrative Assistant, and the Graduate Student of DeHority Complex this year.

This is for their hard work, their patience with my growth, and their willingness to allow me to challenge them.

This is for all the moments you wanted to let go and I convinced you to hang on for a little while longer. All the moments that I asked something of you and you had faith in me. All the happy or sad or stressed tears we may have shared together. All of the moments when there was a click at the office doors, footsteps towards my office, and a smile greeting me. All of the moments where I probably frustrated you beyond belief with processes, procedures, and to-do list items.

This is for my team, for my people, for the relationships I’ve built with each of you individually, for the small chapter I may have been in the book that each of you are writing, for each tough conversation we had over the months, each vent session, each lightbulb moment.

This is for you.

I hope that you chase the sun every single day.

I hope you find every reason to believe that you can reach the dreams you once thought were never attainable.

I hope you let love grow in every part of your life and that you never betray your heart.

I hope you surprise yourself every single day and that you build time for wonder instead of worry.

I hope you recognize how important you are, how beautiful you are, how much potential you harbor in your bones.

When we first met, I told you how invested in you I am. That won’t change. It may look different now that you’re writing a different story for your life. But I’ll still be around. I’ll still be here. I’ll still remind you to take time for yourself, to stop saying “Sorry” for existing, to keep living a life you’re proud of. I’ll still challenge you. I’ll still encourage you to do something worthwhile, to dig deeper, to love harder. I’ll still believe in you as I always believed in you.

Thank you. I love you. I miss you. I’m excited for you, for your journey, for the adventures that you’re about to have. I’m grateful for the time we’ve shared. Some of you will still be around next year and I can’t wait to see what new things you do. Some of you will be far, far away and I can’t wait to be able to see how you impact this world in your own ways.

I could keep writing but we all know this open letter has to come to an end. So this is goodbye (for now). Thanks for letting me love you.

Until next time,

Published by Robbie Williford

Writer from Flint, Michigan. Partial but slowly becoming. Educator. Storyteller. Bashful. Paying attention to the quiet.

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