When you live a military life, saying goodbye to friends is inevitable - but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. If anything, the constant cycle of people moving in and out of each other’s lives makes some people hesitant to get attached to friends at all. When we first arrived on Okinawa, I remember coming to understand that while being a part of a transient community meant that people were welcoming and helpful to newcomers, it also meant that those same people were not necessarily looking to develop new friendships. Sometimes it’s easier if there are fewer people to miss when you (or they) leave.
That being said, very few people go three years without making any friends. And so at some point, you have to say goodbye. To accommodate school schedules, many people in the military community rotate over the summer. In the military vernacular it's known as PCS (Permanent Change of Station) season. In the past week alone, I’ve said goodbye to two people I was friendly with and one with whom I was very close. Another close friend is leaving in a week and a half. I was a rare and lucky PK who never had to move growing up, and I didn’t really have any friends that moved away either. So this is new ground for me.
With notable exceptions, most people try not to be maudlin about these unavoidable and constant shifts. Having to move every 3 years is just one more thing about being in the military that is beyond your control, and so you accept the fact that your friends will leave and move on. Of course that doesn’t mean you aren’t sad, or that you’re not upset they’re leaving, but people (myself included) try to leave things with an air of “I hope we meet again” as opposed to “I’m going to cry myself to sleep every night because you’re leaving.” But while I admire (and try to embody) that attitude, I also try not to get bogged down in only thinking about people that way. I don’t want to turn into someone who decides it’s easier not to invest in friendships just because we won’t live down the street from one another for the rest of our lives. I tend to think that there’s a middle ground somewhere. In the meantime, I choose to love my friends while they’re here, to keep loving them after they’re gone, and to be thankful for them even if they’re not in my life every day. I’ll also try to make an effort to make some new friends – although it took me a while to put together the small collection of friends I have currently. We’ll see how that goes.