So Hard to Say Goodbye

I might never see you again.

That terrible Boyz II Men song, “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday,” has been stuck in my head. My wretched affliction began when a night of karaoke merged with the knowledge that I will be making a big move quite soon, saying goodbye to a job and a home and an area and many people I’ve come to hold dear. As depressing as it is to realize my life can be summed up by a 1991 R&B song, moving on is even sadder.

Moving is not new to me, nor to many of us in our 20s and 30s. Objectively, this move isn’t even as drastic as one I made two years ago: That time, along with the new area, home, and job, I also began living with a romantic partner for the first time. Having re-uped for at least a few more years of committed living, at least this time my partner and I will be moving together. But despite that constant, this move feels more difficult.

I know it’s because I’m getting older. When I was a kid, I didn’t realize what it meant to say “so long” to any person, place, or thing. I’d meet a girl at camp, and we’d play and braid hair for days on end. Then the week would be over and we’d say goodbye, having no idea that it would be farewell forever. At eight years old, time stretches out like a vast highway, and of course you’ll pass “Go” again, see your old camp buddy, go to the favorite lake with the family.

Years have gone by, and I’ve begun to realize that when I’ve said “see ya,” it often turned out to be “goodbye” — a permanent parting from someone or something I might never see again. Sometimes it’s just life, sometimes unplanned, and sometimes necessary, but there’s always a little part of me that finds it strange and even painful to think of parting with even the most remote stranger in an elevator. I might never see that person again. There’s always a little part of me that is thinking of these left and vanished things, people especially, as lost puzzle pieces.

I’m a tad older now but mostly more deliberate. I am trying to focus on what it means to say goodbye as I move on — both the “good-” part and the “-bye” part. A focus on the goodness encountered on my travels, on the wonderful moments, qualities, or lessons I can glean from the place or person or position I leave. And the “bye” part, the toughie— the learning to be okay with having something that doesn’t last forever, or anywhere close to it.

Article © 2006 by Gina Mitchell