Nostalgia: A Toast to Friendship

The experiences we have in life are so transient, here one moment and gone the next. When I started graduate school, I had no thoughts about what it would be like to leave Eugene or the life I had formed there. I left California having just gotten out of a nasty relationship, and I was ready to start fresh. I was interested only interested in getting there, in getting started, and in earning my degree. Yet six years flew by me in a flash. In that time, I became a completely different person; I got married, I got my degree, and before I knew it, I was already leaving to begin the next chapter of my life. And I was excited to go - I was full of expectations and ready to take on the world, to determine if I was on the right path and to see where it would take me.

You see, when the time to leave comes, when you've packed up your life and you've had that one last meal or drink with the people you love there - the surrogate little family you have created for yourself - you feel ready to go; you're off to begin that new chapter and the new adventures that await you in your new home. Months later, when the unpacking is finished and the jobs are settled, when the KitchenAid mixer has its new spot on your new kitchen counter and your bowls and your coffee mugs have their new places in new cabinets, when your books are put up on the new bookshelves and the various trinkets and memories that you brought with you have been settled into their new positions to remind you of the "home" you left behind, only then does it finally hit you. Only then do you suddenly realize that when you move somewhere, away from the place you have been living for a year, two years, six years, twenty, thirty - however long it has been - that you can pack up your furniture, and you can move your books, and you can pack up your clothes and your kitchen gear, but you can't move your whole life. There are some things, even things that took years (or a lifetime) to build, that must be left behind.

Friendships are the hardest of these things. In the beginning, it takes a fair amount of vulnerability to let someone else, someone you hardly know, in. Once you've passed that hurdle and become comfortable with another person, friendships - like good bread - must be kneaded and nurtured, and the good ones (the ones that last) require a measure of understanding that can only come with time and experiences shared together (sometimes that even includes perspective and understanding about yourself that even you don't have).

While true friends will still play a big role in your life despite the miles that separate you, their lives must go on, just as yours must. And while it's one thing to pack up and leave a house or a town, it's another to truly understand that the daily lives of the people that you left there will still go on...but you won't be a part of them any longer. That means that there will be no more Friday nights drinking wine at the Jiffy Mart people-watching with the *regulars,* no more Saturday nights while somebody's husband is nice enough to watch the kids so that you can have a girl's night and share food together, no more talking over a bottle or two at Territorial and ranting about troubles at work or at home so that you can go back to both places and be nice, no more sneaking off from work to grab a cup of coffee or a meal to chitchat about your co-workers and your lives, and no more sweating together through an infinite number of different exercise classes - relying on friendship to force/help/guilt you into going.

I miss my friends. Sadly, I think I miss Tweety so much because that darn little bird was the closest thing I had to a friend here.

I find that I'm half afraid to open the last remaining bottle of Eugene Wine Cellars wine that we brought here with us from Oregon - a 2005 Bellevue Cross Pinot Noir. I'm afraid the taste will transport me back to the nights I spent at the winery, and the friendships created there. Because I know in just a few short month's time, the 2008 harvest will begin again, with a new crew; new friendships will be formed, someone will take over my job, and they will bottle the 2007 wines that I helped make...but I won't be there to taste them. One of my friends will begin graduate school in the Fall, and I won't be there to offer advice or an excuse to escape the lab on hard days, like she did for me. My lab desk and my lab bench have been taken over by new lab members, my shelves filled with new lab equipment, and my freezer boxes of samples emptied. My tight-knit group of girls continues to meet weekly at our old haunts and are discovering new places together. They are my sisters in many ways - the ones I formed when my real siblings were so far away. But the part I miss the most about all of my friends there? They knew me. They know me. And there is nothing else that brings that about except for shared time together.

While I plan on taking these nearest and dearest friends with me wherever I go, as I have done for other places and friends that I have had to "leave behind" on previous moves, it's still not easy. I do have to say that it is truly comforting to still have all of my favorite bloggers stopping by here on a regular basis, letting me know you're out there, being an almost daily part of my life here (thank you, thank you, thank you!) and letting me be a part of yours - some of you for nearly three years now. I know I will find new people here, fall in love with them and their personalities just as I did with the people who became my friends when I first moved to Eugene. But again, these things take time, and it is the wait that is difficult. I'm not even sure yet where to seek out new friends here - although, shhh - I'm already scoping the Internet for other foodies! Because if they love food as much as I do, then I'm sure to love them, right? Then I'll just have to convince them to give me a try too. Should it become necessary, I'm also not above stalking potential friends at the various places I do go - the farmer's market, the grocery store, the lab...if I see them picking up an organic avocado from Kimberly, if I spot a pint of Hamakua mushrooms in their cart, or catch them dipping their spoon in a jar of mango curd for lunch (well, I would do that!), then I might just say hello - all of these things say "potential friend material" to me!

But for now, I think I will open up that bottle of wine and make a toast to you, my dear friends - both old and new. To my old friends, I miss you. I hope that someday the gas prices go down and the plane tickets get cheaper and a fairly godmother comes along to grant us a way to sit with each other once more and reminisce about the old times, while sharing the adventures of our new, different lives (since for most of us that are still living on student salaries a fairy godmother would actually be required). But until then, may you always know that that regardless the miles of miles that separate us, we will never be far apart. To my blog friends, I'm so glad you're here with me still and that, uniquely through our blogs our relationships are able to continue on the same paths - regardless of where the world takes us. And to my new friends, whomever you may be - I can't wait to see what the future holds. Okole maluna!

12 comments from you:

Zoomie said...

Michelle, good luck finding and creating your Hawaiian family. I hope they come soon!

Debinhawaii said...

Michelle, I totally know what you mean. it can be hard to make and find good friends in a new environment. I was lucky when I moved here I had some good friends already from work but 7 years later the majority of my friends are either from work or friends of friends from work. It has been nice starting to get to know you and hopefully we can get to know each other more. Feel free to "stalk" me anytime! ;-)

BTW--The new KCC Culinary Arts Program schedule was emailed to me on Monday. Let me know if you want a copy. I found a couple classes I'm thinking about taking. Maybe we could be classmates?!

cookiecrumb said...

Oh, darn. You know, I TRIED to get you to take that job in the Bay Area.
Sending you friendly vibes. You have us, a lot of us cyber pals.
You will be fine. You're that kinda dame. Here comes your life!! :)

Nerissa said...

Gosh, Michelle, I hope you didn't get teary-eyed writing this. I know I certainly got that way reading it. It's a lovely piece on nostalgia. I think a lot of us reading it could slip ourselves in your shoes there somehow. I'm glad I can still be around as your blogger buddy, a form of continuation.
I know too that the nostalgia works in reverse. There were people I cared about who lived in my little village that I share special relationships with. Now they have moved on to other jobs and lives. Some are closer than others but it still isn't possible to see them every day, every week, like you used to.
I'm sure your close knit group of friends feel that way. I'm sure they feel the hole. I know I do every time I think of my missing friends.

I hope the best for you in finding new friends. You are a lovely, warm-hearted lady. I know you'll attract many great friends given time. And how lucky those future friends will be.

Michelle said...

Aw, thanks everyone. I needed that!

Zoomie, Thanks! Me too!

Deb, Just noticed I called you Debbie (it was the Deb-in that got me), sorry about that! Thanks so much for the support. Darn, was it that obvious I was stalking you?! ;) It's been great getting to know you too and I would LOVE to take a class with you at KCC - let's talk! You can email me at phillipslayden AT gmail DOT com, when you have time!

Cookie, you know I'd have found my way to your doorstep if we had! And even as it is, I'm so glad that I have all my cyberfriends too!!

Nerissa, to be honest, yeah, I did a little. It was a rough week when I was writing it and while I feel much better this week, the sentiments remain. I'm glad you're still here (and back) too - really glad! You're so sweet, thanks for all of the kind words.

Debinhawaii said...

Michelle--no worries I go by both actually. Anything but Debra and I'm good!

I'll email you tomorrow with the schedule and we can chat. I must get some sleep now--up past my bedtime again.

Eugenia said...

This is your first move as an academic, right? They get much easier over time, and you'll change your idea of what makes a friendship (and what makes a home, too). Trust me.

And the new Hawaii pics are gorgeous!

Michelle said...

Deb, Oh good, I'm not banned from friend material yet?! ;) Sounds great - I'm excited to see what they have to offer.

Eugenia, yes and no; I was a tech in Monterey, CA for 2 years and watched all of my postdoc and grad student friends leave, and I moved from one city to another my first year of grad school (marine station to main campus). So, I do know how transient things are in this field. But I am glad it does get easier...I know there are still more to come. Thanks for the thoughts to keep in mind - I'll do that!

Glad you like the pictures too - they're all from around the small island where I work, just off the coast of Oahu. Those little orange citrus fruits are super, duper sour!! But there is also a mango tree and an orange tree with fruit for taking...and I'm definitely going to take advantage of that hammock some day!

genkitummy said...

i thought i left you a post earlier but i guess i closed a window or something and lost the post.
it just takes a little while and i'm sure you'll have lots of friends to hang out with on oahu.
if i were home, we'd definitely get together and i'd introduce you to all my favorite restaurants!

Homekeeping Heart said...

Enjoyed reading your post. I moved from South Louisiana to SW Arkansas about 7 years ago, and still haven't found, in the words of Anne of Green Gables, a "bosom friend." Anyway, I still keep up with my friend from Texas by phone.

Michelle said...

GT, I hate when that happens! I wish you were here too, but you are doing wonderful things out there and I'm so excited to see all the places your very cool degree will take you!

Homekeeping Heart, Thanks for stopping by my blog. Those are the hardest friends to find - especially to meet someone like that in the same place, at the same time. I'm thankful for phone calls and email!!

Sally Parrott Ashbrook said...

Beautiful post, Michelle--wonderfully written. I imagine I'll be feeling all of that when we move next spring, and just thinking about it gives a bittersweet tinge to the idea of moving.