Saying Goodbye

People are trying to say goodbye, and I’m trying to let them.

I’m no good at goodbyes. Not other people’s, but my own. I’m uncomfortable with leavings, and, with my trip only four days away, I’m getting plenty of opportunities for unease.

Three months is just long enough to feel like A Long Time, just long enough to be not just a trip, but an absence, a leave of absence—not just from a job, but from my life. I keep noticing myself wanting to hide, to disappear, to tiptoe off into the darkness—which isn’t really darkness or even blankness, but a big unknown, unimagined and undrawn, the painter’s dream of the painting before he paints it.

I’m uncomfortable with attention. I don’t have birthday parties. I’ve never had an official last day at a job, have always chosen to just dwindle off, fade away, sneak out of the backdoor of a particular life, saying things like, “I’ll be back,” or “I’ll be filling in shifts,” or “I don’t know exactly when I’ll be leaving.” Which is never true, and I know it isn’t true, but I half-believe myself—which becomes full-believing, a believing I distract myself with so that I don’t have to feel sad or wistful or guilty or anything at all. I can push away people’s expression of attachment, their love and care, keep it all at a distance. By the time I’m gone, even I haven’t noticed.

People are trying to say goodbye, and I’m trying to let them.

It’s a different kind of leaving this time. It’s a temporary leaving, like all trips for me, but a more bittersweet one. Why? Because my life is good, and I’m sad to leave it, even if it is for a something positive, a project I believe in, a story I’ve wanted to tell. Because I’ve been working on building true relationships, on truly letting people in, on being vulnerable in a way I never have been. Because I’m letting myself acknowledge that I’m going to miss it all—my muay thai and my yoga, my bed and my backporch, the smell of my favorite coffee and of my roommate’s hair products. And most of all the people.

I’ve been feeling these strange urges to tell people things: “It’s been really rad getting to know you”; “I’m gonna miss our Saturday mornings”; “I really appreciate all your support the last few months.” As though I’m not coming back, as though some piece of me won’t be coming back, the precious little heavy thing I’ve carried and carried.

Is this what they mean by intimacy? Is this what they mean by being truly intimate with another person, by letting it in instead of keeping it all at arms’ length, all of it, always, withdrawing and sneaking off and disappearing into some blank place inside myself?

People are trying to say goodbye, and I’m trying to let them.

“Aw, I’m gonna miss you,” Benji said in the middle of the shift.

“Oh, I’ll be back,” I started in. “Three months isn’t that long.”

I paused, wiping the rim of the plate. I took a deep breath, and looked at him. “Thank you. Goodbyes are hard for me. But I’m gonna miss you too.”

3 Responses to “Saying Goodbye”

  1. 1 Anil February 5, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    You haven’t really left until you’ve actually returned one last time after you’ve left.

    Bon Voyage.

  2. 2 Ekua February 6, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    I tend to not tell the bulk of people people that I’m leaving until I arrive at my new destination. I don’t think I could pull off that M.O. if I was heading out for 3 months, though 😛

    It can be a struggle to take a break (or break away) from a life that has its merits to pursue what you really want. I’m still trying to work up that kind of bravery. Kudos and enjoy it!

  3. 3 sarahynz May 21, 2012 at 9:23 am

    This was exactly how I felt before my 7 month trip! Everyone kept asking when I was going to have leaving party/dinner and I secretly just wanted to sneak away as if it was no big deal just because I find goodbyes so hard

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Lauren Quinn is a writer and traveler currently living in Hanoi. Lonely Girl Travels was a blog of her sola travels and expat living from 2009 to 2012. She resides elsewhere on the internet now.

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