His voice cut the 30 minutes of silence that had filled the car. After a bit of small talk and my attempts to gather some information about the young man earlier in the ride it became clear he wanted to escape into his air pods and the music I could hear softly from the front seat. I had never met this young man before and I had hoped I would learn a bit more about him and his home country, Vietnam, on our hour and fifteen minute ride to the airport. I succumbed to the reality of the quiet ride and drifted off to my own thoughts.
‘I don’t even know what I’m feeling.”
At first I did not realize he was talking to me. He had been speaking to someone on his phone earlier in his native Vietnamese tounge but this time his words were in english and directed towards me.
When I snapped to attention – I leaned in to his comment – “Yes? Feeling about what?”
“I’m a little bit happy and a little bit sad – all at once.”
Hmmm.. I replied – “What is making you feel happy and what is making you feel sad?”
“I’m happy to see my mom, eat my home cooked food, sleep in my bed. I’m sad to leave my friends and this school. I like it here.”
This young man had developed a reputation for not caring about school. His efforts appeared to be enough to just skate by. One would think all he wanted to do was leave and never come back. For a couple of minutes in the car he revealed the label he had of not caring, not connecting may not have been entirely true.
A little bit happy and a little bit sad.
I affirmed him that it was indeed a strange reality to experience two opposite emotions at the same time. One coin, two sides – flipping back and forth between the two trying to figure out where to land. He spoke a few more words on what appeared to be a first time experience for him in his world of teen emotions and then drifted off to the silence and his music. We reached the airport, unloaded his luggage and I bid him farewell. I do not know if I will ever see him again.
Yesterday was full of happy/sad moments for our community. We celebrated the graduation of our Senior Class and the reminder that the relationships that had grown during the last year would now take on a different reality. A large portion of our student body are international students which means the end of the school year means our students will not just return to their homes around our small town but to twenty different countries around the globe. Goodby takes on a whole new level of happy/sad when it takes 24 hours and three flight changes to return to your home land.
One American student commented that she didn’t realize she would cry so much during the graduation ceremony. Another student from Armenia reminded us of her offer to host my husband and I in her home if we would ” Please come visit!” Every year I tell myself I will get better at handling my feelings on this day but like my new friend from Vietnam I have landed again in the happy/sad conundrum that sneaks into the silence of our souls in the midst of the busy of transition to a new season of life.
Little happy, little sad.
As I pulled away from the airport I reflected on my brief yet important conversation. I was reminded that so much of life is not all happy and all sad. I thought of the tug that I have when I label life ‘good’ when I’m happy and ‘bad’ when I’m sad and I rested in the fact that both joy and sorrow can hold the same space and actually work together to make it more beautiful, more appreciated, more loved.
I am grateful I decided to say yes to a last minute request to drive this student to the airport. He was an unlikely candidate to remind me of an important truth of life on the eve of dropping my son off at a camp where he will work this summer and a couple of weeks before we drop our daughter at another camp to do the same.
Little happy, little sad… all at once.
The sweet dance of life….let the music begin.