I remember distinctly what goodbye was. I learned it waving my fingers back and forth while that someone left. I learned it really meant, “bye for now,” and I could go on breathing and living without giving it another thought.
But then I stared leaving.
And I guess that is where all goodbyes start; some sort of departure that puts beings in different places for a time. Wilmington was my first. My wild burst of teenage enthusiasm to run and not go back. I loved everything about that city. That island loosened up the soul of me that wanted to know.It wasn’t enough to know it was all there. I had to really know it in a way that made my toes tingle like they did when curled against the sand.
I promised everyone I’d be back next summer. I couldn’t bare the thought of leaving my surf board and hammock abandoned to boredom. Spain, however, had different plans for me. What little I thought I knew about the world melted away from my conscious and was replaced by curiosity–which had then suddenly grown miniature hands and feet as it overtook every part of my mind. I began to absorb and to cultivate the new knowledge into part of myself. The language made me see things upside down and backward. The blend of European culture coming into one tapa bar and sitting around with the same bottle of vino, speaking of things that matter to humans. Because those people, passing through, where the kind of people we’ve always heard about and never had the courage to be. Friendships formed instantly and without a thought. Going out of our way to meet up without the luxurious curse of a cell phone; talking in whatever mutual language we could muster between us.
But then I left.
And that “goodbye” was the kind I felt. It was final. It was “I don’t know when or if we will see each other again.” And even with the uncertainty of the goodbye, I knew that I was keeping them. These weren’t the high school friends I sought after for security or popularity. These were people I shared life with. I shared a transition with them and a memory. And somehow I felt that I said goodbye to who I was in those months as well.
There have been countless goodbyes since then. I have loved so many in so many places that my heart has seemed to become elastic- stretching with each move until I can no longer keep track of all the places I’ve left a strand. I’m afraid of what happens when I stop saying goodbye. What happens when I stay? When my heart melts back down again and is poured into something forever? That vulnerability is what I’m afraid my heart does not want. It wants the freedom to never get too close. To see the end of one place and have the excitement of the next.
But then I suppose it was never really about the place. It’s the people, and it’s me.
Now that I’m in transition again, and I’m in the place that is my home base, I can’t help but feel a bit trapped. My mind is screaming at me to not settle in. To not unpack. To not find work. I’m only alive when I’m gone. Will it always be this way? Really, like all who wander, I’m only looking for that one place or person that makes my heart want to bounce back whole again and melt into something fully.
Until then, it’s goodbye, girl.