The Long Goodbye

I have always hated goodbyes. I am so bad at it that I will linger at certain places a little longer, holding on to mundane conversation just so I do not have to say that final word and take my leave. I have even spent nights at people’s homes, so I could wake up early and sneak out of the house before anybody starts to stir just so I can avoid doing this.

It is not because I am fundamentally opposed to the idea of goodbye, not at all. I could not begin to fathom a world in which nobody utters that word. Society would turn into a place where everybody was so self-centered because they would not care about ever seeing someone again, or a place where we would start to gather in clumps because we would never be able to depart from one another.

The second idea does not work because we all eventually have to take that leap and say goodbye. Society would become stagnant if we never said goodbye. We would see only that small group of people and share the same ideas over and over again until we reached the point that we thought that we were original and not just another rehashing of an idea that has already been spread amongst ourselves a million times before. The conversations would be the same because there is nothing new to say if we stay within the same group of people. And nothing would ever get accomplished because we would be too busy holding onto that mundane conversation to go out and get something accomplished.

And of course we could never go on living a life where we just moved on without saying that all important word before we moved on. That word gives us a sense of closure to those moments that we have spent with those individuals. It gives importance to those moments that we get to share, and wraps them up into a nice tiny package that we can carry around with us to open up when we feel the need to revisit a happier time when we were with people that we cared about. Oddly enough, it is that goodbye that allows us to open up that moment again so we can work backwards to that single snapshot that we hold with such high regard. Many times the snapshot that we look back to his that final hug and the utterance of that word, goodbye.

And there is always that ultimate sense of closure that we all have to reach at sometime in our lives. How will that moment play out if there is no loved one there to say that word to, or who can say it to us with our final passing? Will that mean that the life we have lived is not worth the time that we spent on it because that all important word is not hovering over the air to document the moment? Is it the word or people to say it to that gives life meaning?

This leads to the ultimate question: if I understand the importance of this word so much, then why do I hate goodbyes so much? I think it is because of the importance that this moment has causes me to despise any time I am forced into one of them.

A great example of this comes at the end of the school year at my current school. It should be a time of rejoicing because the whole faculty has pulled together to deliver another great school year, and help so many students move on to that next stage in their lives. The grades have all been recorded and the final comments have been chiseled into the stone of the PowerSchool gradebook. There is nothing left for us to do except enjoy the warm weather of the summer and get back to the lives that we left behind in the little corners of the world where we are from. But there is one more thing that we have to do before we can cut loose and enjoy our time off. The whole school gathers out in the front of the high school as people load on to various buses that we whisk them off to the airport and new adventures, and we have to say our goodbyes. There are many hugs given and buckets of tears that are shed as some people are faced with the reality that they may never see some people again even though they have been a significant part of their lives for so long.

I can definitely see why these people would like to have that moment of closure in their lives, but for me, it is really uncomfortable. All of a sudden, people who I did not think that I had that big of a connection with come up and try to find that moment with me. The embrace that we engage in feels a little forced as if it were not meant to happen in the first place. Do not get me wrong, I do feel sad that these colleagues of mine are moving on to different parts of the world. There were moments that we had shared that I will be able to bring up again someday when I want to smile, but they are people that I worked with and I do not need to hug everyone of them goodbye. Some of them were very good friends of mine, and I made sure before they left that I had their contact information so we could get together again when we find ourselves in the same part of the world, but still it felt awkward to make a big deal of their leaving. They wanted to leave, and I was happy for them because they believed it was the right decision for their lives. I should not consider myself to have such a large ego that I need everybody to stick around to prove that I have some worth in some people’s lives. They need to have the right to make these decisions on their own and I should not be considered when that decision is being made.

This might be viewed as being callous, and uncaring, and this might come from all of my years growing up in Denver. I know many people think of this city as an up and coming one that is constantly growing bringing many people from all over America to try and find a job there, but this was not always the case. Back in the 1980s, Denver was still considered a cow town by many people when they thought about the place, and there was some truth behind it. There were many places that had not been developed yet, and if you walked out of my house when I was really young, you only had to walk a block before you reached what everybody in neighborhood fondly called the field. Today, that field is non-existent, and I would have to hike a good twenty miles through city and suburbs before I came to a place that was even remotely like what I knew from my childhood. When I was growing up, Denver’s economy was based solely on oil, and when the bottom dropped out of that industry, so did the economy of Colorado. People started to move away in droves. Houses were sold way under the buying price, and I had to learn at a very early age how to say goodbye to my friends.

This education of loss continued on in my college years. I got a job at Olive Garden, and if you want to see people come and go on a regular basis, you should work in the restaurant industry. People are always looking over the other side of the fence at how green the pasture is over there. They constantly hop over the fence and take a role over there. But what they do not realize is that there is always another fence to hop over. When you work in the restaurant industry, you can stand on the rail of the fence you have found yourself on, and look out over all those pastures, and see familiar faces at all of the places. Every once in awhile, one of those familiar faces will come over and say hi to you, and you will reminisce about the times you were on the same side of the fence. It is nice to talk about the old times, but it is not the same friendship that you had when you were together. In fact, it is only a matter of time until those friendships start to fade away, and you will remember the face but eventually forget the name. It is not because you did not have good times together. It is because you have moved on in life, and you can only make the assumption that they have done the same thing, and they are now making new memories with a new group of people.

The goodbyes that people expected were always delayed in the restaurant industry because we were always expecting to see each other again. I was once again trained how not to have that moment that by this time in my life had become something that was an awkward and uncomfortable experience. It were these behaviors that I learned earlier in my life that make it difficult to say goodbye to those that I have come close to, especially when I know that those people will no longer be a central part of my life. Facebook and other social media sites have been created to take a little bit of the pain out of this bite. I can still pay attention to the major changes that are happening to many of the people I have at one time considered close friends, but seeing updates on a computer is not the same as creating those memories that made the relationship so meaningful in the first place.

Does this make me an awful individual because I never learned how to have a meaning goodbye? Some might think yes, and they would be able to make a strong case for my behavior as being selfish. And the more I think about it, they are probably right. But it is a selfishness that is rooted in the time I get to spend with those special in my life. I don’t want those moments to end; therefor, I do not wish to deliver that final goodbye. I believe by never saying it, the moment will last forever.

My students would be angry at me for making such a statement. The whole purpose of giving a goodbye is to give closure, and I am always talking to my students about how important that closure is in what they write. It is great to leave you readers wanting more, but if that is the case, the end should satisfy their audience enough to make them feel that satisfaction of flipping over that final page. This is the purpose of a heartfelt goodbye. We all have to move on in our lives, and there are times where that goodbye is necessary. If we stayed in those moments all of the time, we would never be able to grow as individuals. There is a time where we need to cut those connections off, not because we did not enjoy them, but because it is time to move on. It still does not make it any easier to do, and I will always still have a problem making it come out as meaningful as it really is in my heart, and I guess this essay is an attempt to start that process. It might take some time to reach its intended audience, and many of them might never even read this, but I do want those people to know that the experience has been great, and I have grown a lot of memories that i have gathered that I will always cherish. But there will be a time when I will need to say goodbye, and this is the start of that process. The date and time may be a long way off in the future, but it will eventually come.

Let us just consider this as my long goodbye.

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