It’s the emptiest and yet the fullest of all human messages: ‘Goodbye.’ — Kurt Vonnegut
I must confess something. I have a dispicable tendency to hold other people in contempt for leaving me — for taking another job, for moving to another state, for turning off years of friendship like turning out the lights. But that can be chalked up to human emotions. The worst of it is, I do the very same thing.
I got another job. I moved to another state. Heck, I’m living out of trash bags and a borrowed home for the next month before leaving the country for a year.
So who am I to chastise a favorite co-worker who cleaned out her desk in favor of new employment at a company less than a 10-minute walk from the office? That’s right: no one. Or, as another colleague so mockingly pointed out: “Miss Scotland.”
The trouble is, saying goodbye isn’t something that can be learned. It’s not something that becomes easier with time. There is no art of bidding adieu (though it’d make a terrific coffee-table book).
So when you’re standing in the bitter Baltimore cold between some of your oldest friends and a long goodbye, the future feels too close and Scotland seems so very far.
This move means missing my nephew’s second birthday, the birth of my first niece, friends’ engagements, family passings, another season of Cosi’s turkey-and-stuffing sandwich. There will be celebrities roaming the city sidewalks who I won’t be able to gawk at. And PC Magazine holiday parties I won’t get to attend.
But then I remind myself of the relatively cheap European airfare to Italy or Spain, and the bad feelings somehow melt away.
Drowning in social media, smartphones, and international video chatting services, we seem to forget just how easy it is to keep in touch. Three years later, I haven’t lost a second with a friend so bravely saving the world one African student at a time in the Peace Corps. There may have been fewer movie viewings or bagel-fueled breakfasts. But between online chats and the occasional brief-but-always-hilarious Skype call, nothing has changed us.
And I’m so grateful to a high school buddy and his wife who, after three years living in Abu Dhabi, emailed me some indisputable expat advice ahead of my trip.
It’s goodbye to more than friends and worldly possessions, though. It’s adios to New York.
I owe so much to this city: Paul Auster. Tom Hanks. Stan Lee. The list could end there, for all I care. But then there’s Lauren Graham and Zachary Levi (again). Jeffrey Tambor. Missed moments with Josh Charles. Broadway babies Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick and Tony Shalhoub.
And that’s just the celebrity encounters (plus brief moments of Dule Hill and Ron Livingston, if I may brag a little). I’ve grown accustomed to gazing at the top of the Chrystler Building from my bathroom window, and lunching in Madison Square Park during sunny afternoons.
But this city would have eaten me alive without my kickball teammates, colleagues-cum-friends, and a revolving door of roommates (currently living with numbers four through six, if you count the pup). They’ve taught me about culture, food, solidarity, and most of all, myself.
Now, what once was as easy as “see ya later” turns into “thanks for the memories.”
Lucky for me, I know this is the end. Well, not the end. An end. A finished moment that will be extended only in a very different context.
Which makes me the luckiest girl in the world to have that opportunity. To be able to say goodbye, when finales are so often unexpected and unknown. How often do you really know when it will be the last hug, the last glance, the last chance together?
This time, I got to hug a little harder, glance a little longer, and prepare for the “so long.”
But all good things must come to an end. Even mediocre things. So this is it, my final so long, farewell, au wiedersehen, and goodbye. For now.
But we both know it’s impossible for a middling writer to not document her U.K. journey. So if you stumble upon a poorly photographed, rambling blog about the beauty of Scottish accents, it’s fairly safe to assume that’s my handiwork.
Merry holidays and happy new year. Here’s to 2014, and the beginning of the rest of my life (fingers crossed), and yours. Do something terrifyingly brave this year. You won’t regret it. I hope.
What is that feeling when you’re driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? It’s the too-huge world vaulting us, and it’s goodbye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies. — Jack Kerouack