If I know how to do anything, it would be saying goodbye. I’m practically a professional by now.
Families move. People graduate. An experience comes into full cycle. I planned a leaving party for a friend of mine where we ate brownies and shared fairly disgusting and embarrassing stories which will not grace the internet. That was one recent goodbye.
I’m preparing others for my own goodbye before my move. Like, for example, the little children that I look after. I realise now, after one of the little boys cried and refused to eat his cheesecake after hearing that I’m leaving, that is going to be harder that I assumed. That’s another goodbye coming up. How do you say goodbye?
Honestly, it’s not that dramatic as it sounds. I’ve become quite pragmatic towards the concept. Knowing how to say goodbye is a part of my third-culture kid survival kit. Especially now, when I am living in a season of goodbyes.
There are two extremes with how we process and say goodbyes. Goodbyes may be underestimated or they may be overestimated.
Sometimes we act like goodbyes are like ‘see you later’ and that we’ll come back eventually to the same time and same place. We are cheerful, hopeful, repressed and we say goodbye at the last minute and the last second.
Sometimes we act like goodbyes means ‘never ever see you again forever’ and that nothing will ever be the same again. We are despondent, emotional, open and our goodbyes are drawn-out and painful to both parties.
We all do one extreme or the other and our reactions are intensely personal and private. Neither is necessarily bad or good but are simply our emotions. You can’t control your gut reactions.
However, there is a way to say goodbye and I think it is a combination of the two. Goodbyes involves both the hopeful ‘see you later’ with the realisation that nothing is going to be the same again. The reasoning behind this practiced technique is this; I find it difficult to hold all of these emotions directed towards me all at once. It is too overwhelming and too painful. I need the simple reminder of visits. I need the hopeful attitude that we can be in touch or at least pick up where we left off.
I know from experience that nothing does stay the same- that’s why goodbyes hurt. However, that’s why there is excitement in them. Change doesn’t necessarily have to be negative. There is a future to look forward to. You can’t go back to the past and you can’t change what is happening or what has happened. Nothing stays the same and that is our reality. You have to embrace it or it will swallow you instead.
So how do you say goodbye? You tell people ‘see you later’, knowing that your later will be different from before.
And you know what? That’s okay.