I think it’s safe to say that goodbyes are usually tough. In fact, it really makes me wonder why the word “good” is involved in it at all. I mean, I guess if you’re battling an illness and you finally feel better, you can easily and happily say goodbye to what most likely added stress and inconvenience to your life. Or if, like, a co-worker who always ate your container of your mom’s Kraft mac and cheese was suddenly relocated to Siberia, I don’t think you’d have a lot of trouble waving goodbye as they packed up their desk (I’M LOOKING AT YOU, DAVE).
But most of the time, when we say “goodbye”, we’re parting from the person/thing/place that we love the most. Looking at it this way, saying “goodbye” really, really sucks.
The reason I decided to write about goodbyes today is because lately, I’ve been surrounded by them. I know that this is normal for someone my age: When you’re 20 and just starting to maybe possibly figure out what you want to do with your life, you’re taken in a hundred strange and beautiful directions that often result in you having to say goodbye to some of the people you care about. In pursuit of a beginning, some things have to come to an end.
After I graduated from high school, I stayed home to work and get my associates degree. I said my first bittersweet goodbye to my friends as I watched them load up their parents’ mini-vans, board trains, and hop on planes, heading towards their own personal goals and aspirations. For a while, I felt a little left-out. The goodbyes hurt more than I thought they would. But life-as it tends to do-continued on, and I soon realized that saying goodbye to my hometown friends didn’t mean I was saying goodbye forever. I was right: as summer turned to fall and fall to winter, Thanksgiving came around, and so did those planes and trains and mini-vans. Although my hometown friends had new school friends, I did, too. Saying goodbye didn’t mean our friendships had ceased; it merely tested them.
Once I decided to transfer to a school 9 hours away from my hometown (by car), something I had been trying to ignore ever since my high school guidance counselor started throwing around the word “college” once again loomed its ugly head: the fact that going away to school meant me being on my own. I would have to say goodbye to my family.
Let me make this clear: I’m not a spoiled kid. I wasn’t afraid of missing my mom because she always cooked dinner, or because she always reminded me to wash my sheets (she still does that, anyway). I wasn’t afraid of missing my dad because he cleans up after me or because he fixes my car when it craps out (which happens a lot). What I knew I’d miss the most, and what I DO miss the most, is them. Just knowing they’re around. Knowing that if I read something funny, my sisters will be around somewhere to laugh with me. Knowing that if I have a rough day, my dad will do something seemingly small, like bringing home a peppermint for me from work, to make it a little better. Hearing my mother talking in her signature loud voice from her room. These are the things I miss the most, and the things it was the hardest to say goodbye to last August.
I know how dramatic this sounds, and I swear, I’m not always this brood-y (just check out some of my other posts, nudge nudge wink wink). The reason I’m thinking about all this now is because in less than a week, I’ll be saying goodbye to my family again to go back to school. Don’t get me wrong-I’m excited to be back on my own. It’s something I like more than I ever thought I would. But knowing, now, how difficult it can be to say goodbye…well, it makes me want to focus on the positive side of saying goodbye, shall we?
In each of our own lives, and in different ways, we will all say a million goodbyes at one point or another. They’re unavoidable. As a kid, I was forced to say goodbye to all four of my grandparents before the age of 10. It sucked, I won’t deny it, but it also prepared me to say goodbye to other things, and it educated me on how to avoid saying some goodbyes. If something in your body feels off, choose to say “hello” to a physician. If you’re feeling helpless, choose to say “hello” to a friend, a family member, a therapist, a confidant. Choose to say “hello” to new hobbies, interests, and ideas. Welcome criticism. Embrace differences. Choose to out-hello all of the goodbyes in your life.
There’s no doubt that saying goodbye is unavoidable, and that it usually stings. Sometimes saying goodbye is the most painful thing in the world. But if I’ve learned anything from the goodbyes I’ve said in my life, it’s that choosing to say hello can be an awesome pain reliever. I’ll be thinking about this on the bus back to school next week, and I hope the rest of you think about it when you’re saying your own goodbyes. I know this all sounds like something I heard from some lame, late-night motivational speaker, but it’s true: goodbye isn’t always permanent, and it doesn’t always result in a loss of something you love. If you choose to say hello every once in a while, who knows: maybe you’ll end up gaining more than you lost.