Saturday, June 1, 2013

A Year of Tomorrows

A dear friend of mine (actually, two friends of mine) are enlisting. One of them entertained me with stories of his experience in a nearby ROTC program (since Yale, until recently) did not offer a program for it. He woke up earlier than most of us ever did and worked very hard, making friends and learning a discipline that I was never exposed to besides the conversations that we shared on the topic. His commitment was inspirational to a lot of us. And it was a pleasure to open my email this morning and glow with pride for his accomplishments.

Though I was able to learn more about it over the course of the year, I came from a very academically focused family. We value service and I have devoted a lot of time to find ways to serve and solve interesting problems. But this service is very different in its mindset and goals.

It was a transition for me to embrace. The other friend is someone I have known for many years now and has been adopted into my life in a way I never really expected from someone whose politics are very different from mine. First we learned to coexist and respect each other, and quickly we became very close friends. We're both pretty quirky. I think that's what did it.

So when he told me for the first time that he planned to enlist once we graduated, I watched him with the same measured stare that he gave me from across the table. "Oh. " was all I could muster.

I am endlessly proud of him. The same way I am of my own younger brother. Though he was too modest about his accomplishments to tell me things himself, like when his next cross country race would be, or that he was killing it at higher level physics, math, and economics classes, or when he did particularly well in a race. I learned how to ask. Though too often I forgot to.

It was a year (or several years) of tomorrows. I would go to his race, tomorrow. We would catch up, tomorrow. There was always tomorrow. We sure as hell enjoyed the todays. The todays when we went to a driving range (golf) and both tried to see who could hit the golf ball furthest (he won), or hit the truck picking up the balls (I won), and ended up ripping the skin off my hands because I only know how to swing golf clubs the way I learned to use a field hockey stick. I think he pulled a muscle in his arm that day. Clearly, neither of us had any idea what we were doing and probably looked ridiculous. The todays were early morning runners to our favorite diner, no matter how early he had to leave the next day. Or the afternoons when he would dry the running clothes that he had used earlier on his car, after he washed them in our sink, and my mom would insist that he try the washing machine upstairs. Or the afternoon when I called him after the marathon bombings and he tried to make it better. We had a lot of todays. But always with the promise of tomorrow. He wasn't going away... yet.

This is how I have conceptualized my goodbyes: it's not goodbye, almost ever. It's not hard to stay in touch or reach out, and we may very well cross paths again. We can have years of todays and tomorrows.

But I am wary of putting too little weight in the time that I do have with some of my friends before we part ways in the directions we've decided to take. It's not goodbye, but time and space add their own elements to friendships, relationships and conversations. We wont always have shared contexts.

He left with a friendship bracelet that I made for him -- just like I did our freshman year. I guess, in that way, I'm still right there, as he knows I always will be. Even when I cannot be physically present.

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