What is in a goodbye?
Goodbyes are small moments in the grand scheme of a relationship.
Some goodbyes are forever goodbyes and some are temporary.
I’ve said goodbye to a lot of people in the last year. I’ve been on three continents in the last year (North America, Asia, Europe). I’ve lived on two (North America and Asia). In the last twelve months, I’ve called five different cities and towns home (Chiang Mai, Thailand; Nakhon Chaisi, Thailand; Bloomington, Minnesota; Arlington, Virginia; Washington, DC).
With this constant moving, I’ve met so many people. I’ve lived with some of them; I’ve begun to love some of them; I’ve learned so much from most of them. With this constant moving, I’ve said goodbye to nearly all of them.
Some of those goodbyes I surely thought would be temporary. There was the kiss on the cheek at a 7/11 in Bangkok–someone I thought I’d certainly see within the next couple months, if not weeks, but whom I left Thailand without seeing again. There was the slightly awkward, rushed goodbye the day before New Year’s Eve, also in Bangkok. A goodbye I also thought would be temporary; a goodbye that was also final to Thailand. “I’ll see you when I see you. Probably sooner than later.” Except, not.
There were the hugs given to my students as I tried to contain my tears walking out of their classrooms, so very aware that this was the last time I’d see these tiny humans that I had grown to love so much. Tiny humans I never imagine I’d grow to feel so much for in the course of four months. Working with kindergartners and trying to teach them English…especially when English isn’t their native language…especially when they are still learning to master their native language…is exhausting. I came back every day for them because they filled me with so much joy. I was going to come back for a second semester solely because they filled me with so much joy when my life in Thailand did not. I miss them every day.
There was the grateful goodbyes to the German family I stayed with in Hamburg and the expats I’d stayed with in Copenhagen—“thank you so much for letting me live in your home temporarily.” My two weeks in Europe wouldn’t have been the same without these people—as a guest at an Easter dinner in Hamburg, as the recipient of an Italian expat’s fantastic cooking and welcoming, down-to-earth demeanor.
The goodbyes to my parents as I drove off early one June morning, chasing my dreams yet again to DC; I had only been back from Thailand for two months and I was leaving yet again, to continue my journey elsewhere. They let me go because they knew I needed to go. My heart was calling me off yet again. I know they would never tell me how hard it was to say goodbye again…even though I was only going across the country this time, as opposed to across the world.
So, what is in a goodbye?
What does a goodbye mean?
For I am certain a goodbye is more than simple parting words.
— — — —
A goodbye is a sum of a relationship
How you react to parting with someone—whether it’s for the long term, for the short term, for forever, or just for a time that feels like forever—is a profound statement about how your stories intertwined.
As I think about all of the goodbyes I’ve experienced in the past year, I can’t help but think that those goodbye that were dearest to me were also dearest to those who experienced them with me. I cannot help but think that it’s those relationships that shaped me the most, even when I wasn’t looking.
Every goodbye tells a story.
Every goodbye is a denouement of two or more lives summed up in a matter of words and gestures. Perhaps a relationship will experience multiple denouements in the course of its existence. Perhaps it will only experience one.
I prefer to believe that the most important relationships will experience many.