My heart is being flown all over Canada.

This isn’t really about anything except a mild heartbroken girl who has learned a lesson only teachable by life experience.

Okay, when I was a kid, I thought airports we’re the coolest because I loved the idea of adventure. And I mean, what kid doesn’t? Right? Now that I’m older, I’ve been on lots of planes, and of course I still love travelling. I don’t get so excited about airports anymore, though. Airports are where I’ve said some of the most heart-wrenching goodbyes. I’ve had to leave my whole world behind, a few times, just by leaving airports. Whether I was leaving by plane or by car, airports are full of sad goodbyes (happy hellos, too, I try not to forget that).

A year ago, my family and I were living in the Canadian Arctic. I remember that January, my sister, Sarah, graduated from high school a semester early. This enabled her to take a spring-summer job in Ontario.

All the flights going to civilization, in our community, left around one in the afternoon. A bunch of us went to the airport to say goodbye over our lunch breaks at noon. But because her friends and I were still high school, we had to leave before she left in order to make it to our afternoon classes. But I skipped those classes.

Instead of getting a ride back to school with my dad, I stayed at the airport and sat with Sarah until she needed to leave. We mostly sat in silence. And honestly, I don’t know about her, but the thoughts of how nothing was ever going to be the same were flooding my head. She had graduated and this was her, moving out of the house, before I could even hardly wrap my head around us not living under the same roof together.

All of a sudden, while we were sitting there, she broke the silence with words like knives that cut me deeply; “I need to go now.” We were both clenching the tears back, trying to be strong for one another. The hug, quick ‘good luck’ and ‘goodbye’ were said so suddenly I didn’t know what was happening. Before I knew it, she was gone. The moment passes so soon.

I caught a cab and went home and cried. I walked to the Tim Hortons near my place and bought a muffin, because the Arctic doesn’t have bagels. That just happened to be another reminder that in a couple hours, Sarah was going to be able to eat everything bagels with herb and garlic cream cheese – our favourite snack.

I no longer had anyone to sit with at lunch at school. We didn’t rent movies from the movie store on Friday nights. She wasn’t around to help me with my homework. I would call her and she would call me and it was okay. I realized over the next few weeks that nothing was ever really going to be the same again. I never realized she had become my best friend, and she was gone now.

I hurt so much that day. But life didn’t stop and wait for me either, ya know? I had to grow up, recognize the hurt and take healthy steps to move forward.

Sarah, and my oldest sister Jess, came home over this Christmas break and I was beyond happy to see them again. But part of my heart breaks when airplanes have to take them away. I feel like I haven’t had to chance to even say hello.

I’m telling this to you now because they’re leaving again tomorrow. They both get on airplanes and head west for another six months, and I’ll be able to meet up with them again in the summer, but I’m feeling all the same things I did last spring, when Sarah left me alone in that cold, Nunavut airport.

I wrote about that experience in my journal. I was just reading that entry tonight because I am feeling the pain of waving goodbye to my sisters who have pockets full of plane tickets. Except one thing is different, the feeling is familiar now. I know how to deal with it. I know what to expect and how to feel. And I’m still going to cry, but I’m going to get myself under control a little sooner, with a little more confidence, knowing full well that it’ll be alright.

The grads from my high school, and probably lots of high schools, all have to answer a page of questions for the yearbook.

If you could go back and give one piece of advice to your grade nine self, what would you say?

I’m going to leave you with what I wrote, as it sums up what I’ve learned: “I know I would tell that girl that high school is not going to be the best 4 years of your life, but they will be valuable. In grade ten, Jess is going to leave home for the first time. This will be tough, but she’ll be back a lot more than you expect. In grade eleven, Sarah is going to leave you. And she won’t be back as long or as often as you’d like. And both times when your sisters leave, you’ll feel scared and hurt and you’ll keep all those feelings to yourself. But I promise it’ll be okay. I promise it seems crazy but life is just teaching you a lesson you’ll need for the rest of your life, it’s just going to teach you the hard way.”

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