In five days, our family will be on plane to the other side of the world. Our time living in Japan certainly will be an adventure. (If it isn’t, we are not doing it correctly.) I’m excited and am becoming more prepared with each passing day. I read the Ryukyu Shimpo, search for information on the Island’s culture, and meditate on the virtues of going with the flow. Mentally, I’m ready to leave; emotionally, I’m not.
I have said goodbye to my family several times, as my Father reminded me recently. But I’ve yet to say goodbye to my friends. I keep them abreast of our plans–dates, times, and flights–to be sure. They know we are leaving at the end of the month. Indeed, a good friend of mine wrote, “I can’t believe you only have seven days left . . . ” Initially, I was unclear as to what deadline she was referring. Then I understood. She continued, “I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for your leaving.” My heart ached as I read her words. But I understood. After all, I am doing the same.
It’s challenging to write a piece about friendship without using tired cliches about love, acceptance and growth, precisely because friendship demands love, acceptance and growth. What makes this move difficult is that I’ve left my friends before. Nearly eight years ago, I said goodbye to my friends, hopped on a plane and arrived in Grand Cayman. That was supposed to be my happily ever after, riding into the Caribbean sunset with my Prince Charming . But it wasn’t. When the bloom was off the rose, I leaned on my friends. And I did so heavily. They called. They listened. They understood. They visited. They worried. And they rejoiced when I returned to the States.
While I cannot help but feel as if my years in Cayman were a necessary precursor to my future years in Okinawa, I’m struggling saying goodbye to my friends, yet again. It hasn’t helped that I haven’t seen many of them in years. Or that we communicate with one another on a daily basis. These women who enrich my life with vivid adventures, candid honesty, and tough love, get me, for better or worse. And I get them. I cannot imagine my life without their active and reassuring presence. At once, they make me stronger and softer. They encourage me to be more empathetic and more understanding. They ground me, while encouraging me to fulfill my dreams. They make me whole. And they make me a better person.
Yesterday, I spoke with a close friend who gave me wise counsel. Towards the end of our conversation I asked, “What am I going to do without you?” “Kimberly,” she replied, “you will never be without me.”
Thank you, Friend.