As you get older, you’re bound to go through the different stages of forming and ending friendships. You go through several different schools in the first twenty-odd years of your life, and perhaps you’ve moved jobs a few times by now as well. Goodbye becomes synonym with moving on, and I want to believe that it gets easier each time, because it should. Practice makes perfect, right? With each goodbye said, shouldn’t that familiar heartache lessen?

And yet, with each farewell made, I’m just reminded of the fact that there’s always going to be a goodbye with each hello that comes into our lives.

I recently sent off a family moving overseas, and they are so dear to my heart and many others in my social circle, for the joy they’ve brought in the few years we’ve known them. As I valiantly tried to hold back tears (unsuccessfully, I might add), I’m struck with the realization that despite the reaches of technology nowadays, there is absolutely no substitute for a warm hug, kind words and silly jokes made in one another’s physical presence. I will no longer be able to walk into their lives as easily as I once had, and neither can they, because cogs turn and gears spin, and life moves on, whether I’m on board or not.

And yet, I can think of other friendships that began and have ended in one way or another, and all of them have had some form of influence over my thoughts, ideas and outlook in general.

I still remember that boy in kindergarten and how he taught me to stand up for myself, after countless rounds of him bullying me for being small and weak. (We became good friends after he decided I wasn’t worth the trouble to pick on anymore.)

And there were the older sisters I wished I had growing up, who taught me to look at myself without the lens of society’s expectations of beauty, and who showed me that adults were still human and flawed.

I learned from countless faces that childhood is best kept as a piece of beautiful nostalgia, even as friends I used to run around with on sunny mornings are too far away, too distant in memory.

Then, there are those who walked out of my life and came crashing back in, and perhaps forgiveness will never be easy, but it only means a lot more to be able to say sorry and not hear it back.

Some goodbyes are more painful than others, admittedly. Sometimes, you’re just hard pressed trying to stop yourself from saying “good riddance” to their backs, and then there are those too special to keep to yourself; the ones meant to make a difference in this world.

But a goodbye is never a true farewell, because the imprints of their hellos and the way they laugh, and the words they’ve spoken into your life are infinite, lasting impressions carved into your memories.

So the next time you have to say goodbye (because there will always be a next time), remember: unless you decide to completely wipe their existence out of your mind, ala Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, they will always be a part of you. They live on in the thoughts you have late at night, when you see something out of the blue that reminds you of them; they are in the opinions you carry and the decisions you make.

And if nothing else will stop the pain, cling to the fact that there is comfort in knowing these friendships even existed in the first place, and you were all the more blessed for having them in your lives, no matter how short a time that may have been.