Does it ever get easier to say goodbye? I tried practicing, you know, to make it sting a little less. Goodbye. I said it straightforwardly. You know, ripping the consonants and vowels out like a band aid, hoping for a momentary sting that quickly dissipates. Nope. That hurt too much. I tried a circumvented approach, carefully selecting words which meant the same thing but were not as harsh. See you later. A little better, but the sting is still there. No matter how I sliced and diced, regardless of my meticulous choice of words, it all still meant the same thing (goodbye), and the wound left behind just the same.
I paused at the doorway. A quick scan of an empty space. Living room. Dining Room. Décor. There it all laid, three hundred and sixty five days of memories wrapped, packaged and sealed, resting atop the hardwood floors of 3502. You know, there is something about the word “goodbye” which is innately painful. Even if you know with absolute certainty that you will see someone again, goodbye denotes an ending and, let’s face it, endings are pretty darn rough. And that’s what we faced, Brian and I. The sixteenth of June. It represented the day when we would say goodbye to the apartment we shared during the last year, Brian would head off to begin his dream medical residency (5 hours away) and we would live apart for a short while. Of course, love knows no boundaries and distance meant zilch to either of us. But, still. There was that sting. There would come a time, when he would stand beside the car with the door open, giving me one last hug before setting off. The moment I would have to say it.
You know, a lot changed when we opened the doors to 3502. It was an exciting beginning for us. The first crank of the apartment key unlocking a year’s worth of beautiful adventures. We changed zip codes and perspective last June, seeing the world in a new shade of “our.” I remember the first time we used that word, too. Our. It flowed so smoothly from our lips, almost as if we’ve been practicing for years and finally had the chance to say it. Our couch. Our dining room set. Our home. Everything we spoke about, everything we planned, was exhilarating and enthralling, each time as exciting as the first. It’s what happens when you find “the one.” You can’t wait to begin.
And this was our beginning.
As I faced it, I dreaded goodbye because I knew that beginning would turn into an ending. Whether good or bad, I just felt as if it coincided with change. That we would have to adjust and find a new normal. And, to be honest, I liked this normal. I liked seeing him every day. I liked pillow fights on Friday nights. I liked Sunday morning breakfasts. I liked being close to him and now hundreds of miles lay in between us. I went to work a sobbing mess after he drove away. Three seconds later, I missed him already. Three seconds after that, I looked forward to seeing again. And one month later, it was time.
I hopped into my rental and onto the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Set as destination. I was on my way. Five hours, countless solo karaoke sessions, one caramel frappuccino, and two-hundred-and-seventy-five miles later, I arrived … and my heart felt whole again.
And there we were. Right in the middle of it. We stood in the kitchen and talked for an hour. I rested my head in the middle of his chest. His heart beat to the words. Welcome home. I was surrounded by love and familiarity. The furniture from our old apartment, resting on new floors. His smile. Just, him. Right in the middle of it and, yet, I knew the time would come again. After the smiles and laughs and dinners and pillow fights and pancake breakfasts, I would need to say it again and I cringed at the thought of it.
I will spare you the completely made-up story about how saying goodbye wasn’t so bad this time around because, well, it was. I did all I could to stall, you know. My brain frantically churned one topic after another (regardless of its relevancy). Work. Weather. Flavor blasted goldfish. If I keep talking, I said to myself, I can stay. However, no amount of stalling could change the inevitable. I would need to go. Set as destination. This time, two-hundred-and-seventy-five-miles in the other direction.
Alright, bye.
Yep. The sting was still there. But do you know what I realized? The “hello” after one month of not seeing Brian made me smile more than the “goodbye” ever hurt when he left. I suddenly realized that the focus has shifted. Of course, I am sad to leave each time (I cry for about the first hour on the drive back), but I look forward to seeing him more and more; we look forward to our wedding; we look forward to our life together and understand that we are working towards a future when we never have to be apart.
We see beginnings in every ending.
So, does it ever get easier to say goodbye?
Honestly, I don’t think so. But I think I may have found the key.
Maybe goodbye isn’t about watching the door close and missing what’s behind you. Maybe it’s about watching another open and looking forward to what’s next.
For us, the road ahead is laced with excitement. For what’s in store for us is even greater than anything we’ve left behind.
So, goodbye.
And hello.