October Editorial: How to Say Goodbye

I sat down to respond to a short-answer prompt some nights ago, desperately trying to form coherent thoughts after an exhausting day. If you could meet a character from a book, who would it be and what would you ask them?

In an unexpected moment of clarity, my mind settled on an obscure character from Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s timeless children’s book The Little Prince.

“Tamed by the little prince, a fox discovers “what it costs to be happy.” The color of the wheat and its ethereal submission to the wind preserve the memory of their friendship, all that remains once the prince resumes his search for his rose.

Growing up, “The Little Prince” was a bedtime rite, and at nine years old, I received my own copy with a note scribbled onto the first page in my mother’s distinctive handwriting: “With love, Mom and Dad.”

With college ahead, I often question my own capacity to grapple with the loss of all that is familiar, especially my family. I am tamed to my parents and them to me, and, as the little prince comes to learn in regards to his rose, other parents exist, but none like mine.

Our love is unconditional, but I must leave to find my rose, my vocation, my purpose.

Perhaps, in reply, the fox would recite his mantra “anything essential is invisible to the eyes,” but, pending a response, I would like to know: Fox, how do we release those we love with grace and selflessness?”

The college application process is, of course, daunting, and the stress soon begins to compound as the intricacies of the process come to light. But, I’ve found that, aside from college essay writing, which can be emotionally taxing, the entire ordeal is more tedious than it is difficult. The brunt of the work is over for most seniors: tests have been taken, resumes polished, and volunteer hours completed.

What nothing could have prepared me for, no guidance counselor appointment or financial aid workshop, is my own fear of unfamiliarity.

Malden has been my home for the majority of my life, but only now I’ve come to realize that its unparalleled diversity is a two edged sword. We, who laud our own diversity routinely, are well aware of the benefits it provides our community, but as soon as we leave this self-contained bubble, we are confronted with a world with a much higher racial disparity than we are used to. That isn’t the only shock I foresee.

As an only child, over the years my friends have become surrogate siblings, and my most significant friendships, my sisterhood, were forged through years of shared classes, lunches and recesses. These are the friends whose names and faces librarians came to recognize along with mine over the years; they are friends with whom I have revered many a celebrity and watched too many shows religiously; friends whose initials are carved beside mine on trees across town, claiming physical territory and emotional territory in each others’ hearts.

By that same token, by virtue of my only-child-ness, I am also extremely close with my parents. As immigrants they’ve made inconceivable sacrifices and have been my greatest supporters and my fiercest motivators.

The reckoning that these people, who have brought me so much comfort and joy, who have meant to me far more than words could possibly describe, will soon be miles away from me, a reality I, and many seniors, have been fortunate enough to have never been confronted with, scares me intensely.

So, like I imagined asking the fictional fox in my short-answer response, I have been compiling the wisdom of some of the adults around me, adding it to my emotional arsenal and equipping myself with tools to cope with the impending changes in my future. The resounding general consensus seems to be that it’s excruciatingly painful to miss your friends and family, but that it doesn’t take long to acclimate to college; gaining independence and self-sufficiency is a crucial part of the college experience, a transitory period in most people’s lives and soon in my own.

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