It seems that as we grow, we're not very good at staying in one place. We leave our hometowns, leave the cities in which we went to college and leave new homes for new jobs. We're constantly moving around. We make friends all over and eventually have to say goodbye, for now.
Unfortunately, goodbyes are just inevitable.
I’ve said goodbye a lot in my life. For the most part, they’ve all been temporary goodbyes, more like “see you laters,” but that doesn’t make them any less hard.
Admitting to yourself you’re not going to see someone important to you for a while is a tricky thing.
Most of us are not very good at the whole goodbye thing. In fact, most of us suck at it. Personally, I try to be good at it, but I’m usually not. I cry. I get angry. I cry, again (okay, I cry a lot).
When we’re little, we use the term "goodbye" to make people who are annoying us go away, and when we’re older, we forget why we would ever want to say such a thing in the first place.
It’s okay not to be great at saying goodbye, or even just see you soon.
There are things we do and say around the time we need to leave a place or a person that seem weird or out of character, when they're just our ways of trying to say goodbye -- here are some:
1. We distance ourselves.
We all have countdowns in our brains to when we’re going to have to leave a place. Two weeks away, we’ll start finalizing travel plans; one week away, we’ll make sure all of our laundry is done. A few days away (or, more realistically, the night before), we’ll start packing everything up.
The closer the date gets and the more aware we become that this goodbye will be real, the more we might start to distance ourselves from the ones to whom we’ve become close.
Our friends are leaving, or we’re leaving our friends, and we can’t handle it. We act a little less excited to see them and don’t make quite as many plans.
We keep them at an arm's length so when the goodbye comes, there’s already some distance there. If it’s already there, then what’s a little more?
We start distancing ourselves from people before we’ve even left to prepare ourselves for the physical distance between us which we know will be inevitable. We can't control it, but adding to the distance is our way of trying to.
2. We get angry.
When there’s too much happening in our lives all at once, it’s hard to make sense of it all. We know change is good, but change is also scary. Being scared can make us feel vulnerable, and so, we’ll get angry, instead.
Anger is not as hard to deal with as being afraid. Anger, we can take out on people.
Anger is easiest to take out on the people we care about most because we trust they’ll still love us, even if we’re a little less than nice to them. We take it out on them without realizing it. We don’t want to leave them, so we’re mean to them.
We snap at them for saying silly things. We snap at them for nothing at all. We don’t like what’s happening, and somehow, it’s their fault. Maybe, if we didn’t love them so much, this wouldn’t be so hard.
When the goodbye finally arrives, we’ll probably stop with all the anger. It was just a coping mechanism, a way to combat the fear. When the goodbye comes, the anger subsides, and we realize exactly why it was there.
3. We act needy.
In the calm before the storm, the denial before a goodbye, we start to get anxious. We’re excited for the next steps or scared of leaving or angry we’re staying behind, and it’s our friend who's leaving us. There are lots of emotions, and we pull them all into ourselves and become needy.
We have so many feelings, and they need attention, namely from the ones we love.
We start asking for more attention from the people or person we know we won’t be seeing anymore. When they try to leave, just for the night or to go take a shower, we freak out.
No, don’t go yet; we protest. Five more minutes, 10 more seconds, 17 more minutes. An entire extra lifetime, please. That’s all we’re asking for.
Stay with us now, before we have to say goodbye for real.
We love the people in our lives. We need them, and when we know there is coming a time when they might not be in our lives the same way they were before, we suddenly need them even more.
We need them so much, maybe it’ll make them stay. At least, that seems to be the reasoning our hearts have come up with.
4. We avoid the goodbye altogether.
Sometimes, when we’re faced with a goodbye, we just flat-out refuse. Often, without realizing it, we simply avoid the whole process of saying goodbye altogether.
On graduation day, while most people will rush to the reception afterwards to take pictures with their friends, some people will skip it and go straight to packing up their stuff and hitting the road.
They can say goodbye to a few people and text the rest later. Focusing on the leaving is just dragging it all out.
For some, there's no need for all that. Goodbyes aren’t necessary because they’ll see you soon, and also because long, drawn-out goodbyes might make them realize it might not be so soon, and that would be uncomfortable. Avoiding the goodbye is the easiest way to keep all feelings intact.
It’s okay to say goodbye later, if we need to. It’s okay to quietly acknowledge to ourselves before the goodbye, during one of last times we hang out with someone or the last times we see a place, this is the end.
Sometimes, we need to say the goodbyes in our head instead of out loud. Sometimes, that’s all the goodbye we need.
5. We cry.
And, sometimes, we cry. Our tear ducts seem to be linked directly to our emotions, and our emotions are out of control.
We might start crying over every little thing, even if it has nothing to do with us leaving. We become emotional powder kegs. Leaving is sad, and our tear ducts need some exercise, apparently.
Someone who cried only once in the past year suddenly cries three times in one week for no good reason. A smell, a hug, a milkshake or an adorable mouse makes us spontaneously tear up.
A chapter of our lives is over, and it’s hitting us harder than we expected.
Crying is not a bad thing; it’s simply an expression. A goodbye is a big step. A goodbye is saying, “Hey, something is going to be different now, even if it’s only temporary. It’s still not the same as it was before, and that’s hard.”
Even if it’s not forever, a goodbye is an end, and endings always seem to come with tears.
Don’t be embarrassed about your waterworks. Let it out; cry for everything it was, and cry for how different it might be in the future. Cry because it was beautiful, and it still will be, just in a different way. Cry to say goodbye, and then embrace it.
Goodbyes are hard, but they’re not forever. They’re just the end of a chapter.