A few years ago I watched my friends leave for college; frigid east, humid south. And I had a mantra, something I taught them when it came time to say goodbye: this is not the end. We will see each other soon. Let’s not cry. Let’s enjoy this.
Then I’d walk out the door. Then they would board a plane. Then they would get in the car. Then we’d both be somewhere else.
No tears. No reminiscing. I kept my goodbyes short, impersonal. I told my friends I did this because I didn’t want them to leave on a low note. I wanted them to leave feeling something positive, that we would see each other again and be better people when we did. It wasn’t the end of the story, just the beginning of a new chapter.
For the weeks leading up to Global Citizen Year Fall Training I continued the tradition I began when my friends first left.
If anyone asked me if I was nervous to leave I would shrug. “I don’t know,” I would say, “I’m sure it will hit me when I’m finally in Ecuador.” And when things started to feel sentimental, when they started to feel like goodbye I would change the subject. I didn’t cry, not even when I hugged my best friends goodbye.
Today, I hugged my mother for the last time for 8 months. I tried to keep my goodbye quick, keeping to the same routine I had told my friends standing in their driveways years ago. I leaned on the trunk of her car as she got ready to drive back to Oakland. All of Stanford was sepia in sunset and I looked at her, prepared the same monologue.
“I don’t want to draw this out. This isn’t the end.” Then, I love you.
Then we hugged and I realized I was saying goodbye to the last remnants of my home and my life here, at least for the next 8 months. It wasn’t the end but it felt like it. We wouldn’t see each other soon. And I did cry. And I enjoyed it. I said goodbye.
After weeks of shielding myself from the word and the feeling I embraced it, not as sorrow but acknowledgment. I have a family who loves me. I have friends who I will miss.
I can’t say I love goodbye but I know what it means. It’s not a sad note. It’s a high note. It’s a note you’ve got to hold and hold, maybe the one that carries you to the end.