Last Sunday, I had lunch with a friend from high school, whom I had spent a lot time with when we were both applying for American colleges. This summer, since both of us came back to Beijing, we hang out together from time to time. By the time when we said goodbye last Sunday, she asked, “Since you’ll be in France next week, when will we meet again?” It was a simple question, but the answer seems so vague and distant: when and where will we meet next time? Maybe next winter, but she said she wouldn’t be in Beijing and I might still be in Paris; maybe next spring break, but she might be heading to South America at the time and I might have other plans; maybe next summer, but that will be another year and who knows where we will be? Maybe the next time when we meet each other again, we are both college seniors preparing for graduation.
This question reminded me of the many similar conversations that I had with my friends in the last two years, and for so many times I couldn’t give a definite answer, and neither could my friends. Why do I have to keep saying goodbye all the time to almost all my friends — friends from middle school, high school, college, and even my parents?
At Brown, I spend most of my time with college friends, but during summer and winter breaks, we have to say goodbye and head back to our own homes all over the States and the world. As for my old friends and parents, it’s exactly the other way round. Various summer internships, summer schools and study abroad programs that my friends and I participate also make each person’s path very different from one another. Since I embarked on my college life in the Untied States, my life has been full of endless moving and adapting to different environments — College at Brown, winter break back home in Beijing, French school at Middlebury, summer break with cousins in Indiana, and study abroad program in Paris, etc. I’ve never stayed in one single place continuously for more than 4 months. I always have to move, and learn to call a new place home.
My life wasn’t like this before: I’ve been living with my parents in Beijing since I was born, with most of my other relatives living nearby. I made a lot of good friends in Beijing No.4 high school (middle school and high school), where many of us spent the three or even six years together. In the first 18 years of my life, I’ve never thought about “saying goodbye” to anyone, but now, “saying goodbye” seems to become a routine at the end of every semester and every summer/winter break. Sometimes I wish I could stay in my hometown for my entire life like the way my parents and grandparents do, with friends and relatives living nearby since childhood. However, I chose to study abroad, which means choosing a lifestyle with more mobility and less stability. It’s a little sad to think that I can’t be around home often, but I find it worthwhile to lead my current lifestyle. I know that I could live a happy and easier life if I never chose to leave my hometown, but I would never have the precious opportunity to know different cultures and meet different people. I know that my parents who have never lived in a different country are happy with their current lives since being at home means more comfort and less challenges, but I am the kind of person who would want to trade such comfort for a chance to see the world and I’m grateful that my parents gave me the chance.
It’s often said that a younger generation always excels the older one, and maybe that’s how I move a step forward: going to the places where my parents have never been, speaking the languages that my parents have never learned to speak, and seeing a bigger world beyond their “world”, which are all at the expense of leaving home.
Fang is a senior at Brown University. You can contact Fang Guo at firstname.lastname@example.org.