Goodbyes

To the Editor:

In less than 30 days, I will be walking up onto the stage receiving my high school diploma. My parents will be attending my graduation ceremony, listening to Mr. Lovett read off my name. I will be taking tons of pictures with my friends, uploading them onto Facebook within an hour. I will be hugging people and saying goodbye. But what's bugging me is what am I really saying goodbye to?

Growing up, I've known several types of goodbyes. Goodbyes to my cousins after family gatherings, goodbyes to my parents in the Hong Kong airport after breaks. But how do you say goodbye if it could mean forever?

I remember the goodbyes with my friends before I came to study abroad. There was that one morning the summer before I left home when I was bored, waiting for a text message from my father. As was typical of me back then, I scrolled the page down and found several old group chats that I had almost forgotten.

"Class 5A"

"The Four Besties"

"Paparazzi"

In a matter of seconds, tons of memories came flooding back. Before I left home, I thought those people would be my lifelong friends. We had hung out and sent messages back and forth constantly.

I remember then my phone vibrated, and I came back to the reality of my upcoming departure. The message was not from my father but rather a group chat I had glimpsed a minute earlier: an old one. I stood there amazed by coincidence. Was someone trying to hold a gathering? Was someone missing the good old times like me? I stared at the screen. "A New message from The Four Besties." A shiver went down my spine and with nervous anticipation, I pressed, "view".

"Athena Cheng Left the Group".

Shocked, I stood there staring at the screen. I can remember feeling stricken without even knowing why really. What did her leaving mean?

Even after I arrived in America one month later, I still received messages from those groups. But gradually, those chats started "sinking." Like Athena's messages, they didn't pop up 100 times a day anymore. Obviously, there was a new wall building between those people and me.

There was a time I couldn't survive without those messages, but today, all of that activity has fallen away. I am here in America now heading to college; those friends are across the Pacific in Hong Kong studying hard for finals. I am involved in several new group chats now, and I guess those old friends are busily replying to their new groups as well.

Time lapses, and everyone changes. Old friends can become unfamiliar and old group chats sink. New groups become more interesting.

High school graduation is another farewell. Like middle school graduation, it is the beginning of some group chats sinking. All of us in the class of 2014 will meet a new bunch of folks when moving onto our next destinations. Our old friendships may not feel as significant as before because we are not seeing each other every day. But this coming graduation day is not the real goodbye; the real goodbye comes when we see that "XXXX is leaving the Group."

Countless people walk into our lives. But are those friendships constant or are they transient? One thing I've learned is that I didn't know who my true friends were until I left home that first time; they were the few people who never left and constantly updated themselves and asked about the others in the group chats. They were those who truly cared about me and treated me as a real bestie. They were those who stayed with me in sunshine and in shade.

Certainly, I will see "XXXX left the group" again after I have graduated from the Academy. But I have faith that several names will still appear frequently because those people have been my rock for the last two years.

I can't predict what will happen to my friendships in the future. People we meet at different stages indeed make our lives colorful, and my time here at the Academy has been rich and meaningful. I will always carry my Topper experience with me wherever I go. One thing I'd like to share with my classmates is to treasure your real besties because you've developed a unique bond here in St. J and that's worth treasuring. Good luck to you all in the future!

Tiffany Fong

St. Johnsbury, Vt.

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