I had a very honest discussion with them about why — not because I didn’t want to be with them anymore. Not because I found a “better” job. Not because I got bored. Because I couldn’t afford to live on my own anymore right now, and have to move back home with my parents unless something else comes up.
It was a teachable moment no one wants — talking about the costs of living, about how not only does a person pay rent, but that they also pay food and utilities and sometimes bills, and that sometimes it’s too expensive to stay in a place by yourself.
"Just come live with me."
"My brother has bunk beds, he doesn’t use one! You can have that!"
"Hey, I’ll just kick MY brother OUT, you can have his whole room!"
I told them that I would write, that I would make sure they had ways to communicate with me. I said that sometimes, I would visit.
"That’s what ____ said," one of the teens said. "She said she was going to come every week. She came ONCE."
"Look," I told them. I used my serious voice. I very rarely use my serious voice. "I don’t know why those other people said they were going to visit you and didn’t. Sometimes we make promises we want to keep, or mean to keep, and things get in the way. But what I can tell you is this — I can’t promise I’ll come every week. I can’t promise I’ll come every month. I don’t know if I can, so I won’t promise. I DO promise to visit you. And I’ll write, and you’ll know when I can visit you when I know."
They gave begrudging nods, but most of them were a little lighter, and the teen who started it picked up her head and looked at me with a very mature sort of thanks.
"We’re gonna hate the next person."
"Don’t give them a hard time," I tell them.
"We’re gonna hate them."
"You hated me too."
"Only for a little while. Then you were cool."
I am going to miss these kids.