The Unwanted Aftertaste of Goodbyes

There is this really strange feeling when things come to an end. It’s that meal you’re not quite sure about when you’ve finished. I could definitely taste the joy, but there was this underlying aroma of total sadness with a hint of terror that I was not too fond of. No matter how many times I’ve said goodbye it doesn’t get easier. Graduation from high school and college, leaving organizations, moving away from friends. The common denominators to the sadness created by these departures are hard work, connection, and love. That sense of finality would never be so brutal without these themes. Without such strong feelings there wouldn’t be that indescribable and unwanted nostalgic aftertaste.

During these difficult departures part of me wishes I didn’t have anything I was going to miss; that I hated my experiences so that I didn’t have to feel so torn up. Graduating college wouldn’t have been so difficult for me if I hated it. If I never had to put blood, sweat, and tears into my school work. If I never felt a part of the community and poured my heart and soul into the place and its people. I wouldn’t have been so sad to go if I felt like there was nothing to leave behind.

The past two weeks I have had to say goodbye to two good work friends, one being my roommate, with a third not far behind. Friends and family are returning to school, some to college for the first time. I finished teaching my very first writing class, and had to say goodbye for now to a great group of kids.

Kids I spent 10 weeks nurturing and encouraging, who in such a short period of time grew so much and were so good for my heart. Kids who made me want to stand on buildings to express my elation at them letting someone read their writing for the first time after 10 weeks while stating out loud their biggest insecurity for us to hear. Who created something beautiful; or protected a friend; or whose excitement went a little over the top, reminding me to give the grace and attention and gentle explanations I wish I had heard more when I was a child.

I graduated college. I said bye to the friends. The interns I became so close to and so proud of finished their summer. The writing class ended. It all hurts. And it hurts because of how great the experiences were. The nature of life is change. Things end. It doesn’t affect the growth that came from the experience. It doesn’t take away the gifts that you gave others, and that were given to you. Someone always needs to be seen. Someone always needs help to grow. Only part of me ever wishes I could have hated the people and the places and the experiences, because eventually I see the beauty behind the nostalgia. I am looking back because there was good there. There was hard work, connection, and love, and so many more great things that lead me here. And those things lead others as well.

As strange as it sounds to say, I hope I am allowed many more painful goodbyes. I hope that I am allowed to be a person who helps others become visible, and guides them to unbury their strengths from a bed of self-doubt; who gives the space and safety and light they need to grow. I know that the reason for the pain in these goodbyes is because of the amazingness of people, and I have faith that during these changes something wonderful is making a shift. If I can continue to experience these goodbyes then I know I’m doing something right. And I know that it means someone exists that has made me so, so proud.

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