i finally figured it out. i finally figured out why this year has hurt so much. why being here at Cottey this year has ripped my heart into so many pieces: because this has been the world’s longest goodbye. when we were driving Iida to the AFS drop off, when she was going back to Finland, my mom told me not to drag the goodbye out. she told me not to torture myself, to hug Iida and Francesca and Piera and Maria and to say my goodbyes but to not say them forever. we weren’t going to wait until we had to leave. it would only break my heart more, she said. i got mad. i thought she didn’t understand how much Iida means to me. but that’s the thing–she did, she does. that piece of advice–to not hold out goodbyes–is one of the best pieces of advice my mom has ever given me. because she’s right–holding out goodbyes just makes them worse. i said goodbye to Iida for probably a week, when we said goodbye to Joelle, when she started saying goodbye to our mutual friends, Dad, Elyse. i said goodbye for a week and I cried for 24 hours after I had to walk away from her. i have been saying goodbye to this place ever since i came back here in August. how long will i cry when it becomes just a dot in the mirror as i drive north again?