New Friends, Forever Friends

We’re in the season of parents saying good-bye to their kids as they go back to school. A year ago Kevin and I had that same experience, but the difference is that we parents left the kid.

I hear so much about how hard it is to adjust to the empty nest once the kids leave. Honestly, that stage of our lives was easier than saying good-bye to my life in New York. Leaving a place where I was born and raised was challenging. I almost felt like a kid heading to a dorm room not knowing my roommate. It was also very hard for this parent to say good-bye to her kid, my son.

We excitedly arrived in Georgia, but once the furniture was placed and the boxes unpacked I felt lonely and sad. I was very homesick and spent quite a few weeks with puffy eyes before I realized that I had to snap out of it. I gave myself the same pep talk I would give a student, which was to stop feeling sorry for myself and find a way to meet people.

Through the years I have joined a number of social media chat rooms. Many would argue that online contact is not real friendship, but I am here to state it is. I cannot tell you how many wonderful people I have “met” through the years.

One morning the leader of one of the groups encouraged us to shout out the town and state we live in. You could only imagine the shock when I saw a response of Suwanee, Georgia from a member. My town! We messaged back and forth for a few days and finally had scheduled a date to meet each other. As she handed me a bag of the most delicious Georgia peaches, I knew by the first hug we had a connection.

I told her how difficult it is starting over in a new place, and she understood. I understood her, too. Like so many, parenting was her passion and she needed to fill her hours again, now that the kids were grown. Then an acquaintance introduced her to a skin-care business and recommended she become an independent consultant.

I loved her story, for it reminded me of myself. I always had a vision of encouraging others to embrace the days we have left and live the best we can. I enjoy recommendations from friends about products and makeup, so I asked if I could please try some samples. I loved the product so much that I joined her team!

Students have many choices when walking into the doors of schools. They can choose their major and change it as needed. Each course introduces them to new people. Strangers can be friends we have not yet met. Life is a classroom regardless of our age, and I do not want to stop learning and meeting others.

My New York friends are bonded in my heart forever. Through the years we shared thoughts, feelings, dreams and experiences that last a lifetime and I need them more now than I ever did before. Knowing I have them to support and encourage will be the wind beneath my wings.

Hugging our kid good-bye was the hardest thing I ever had to do in my life. I will say this, though: absence makes the heart grow fonder. We have visited each other six times in the past year and I believe the miles have made us closer. We take for granted what we have around us every day. Each visit now is cherished. The same holds true with my friends.

I still walk the halls to what feels like my dorm room not knowing a lot of people. But I’m more confident than I was last year. As I begin my second year away from home I am ready to meet strangers. I am beginning to see that we all have the same opportunities in this classroom of life, and age should not close the enormous catalog of courses.

Still, no matter how many new faces I meet on the way, this student will always need and love her forever friends!

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