The Art of Saying Goodbye

I used to think I was good at saying goodbye.

Growing up, my family moved a lot, so goodbye became a common theme in my life. There was a period of time, mainly the late 80s and early 90s, that I went to a new school in a new city and made new friends every September.

I would cry and angrily yell at my parents, “Why can’t we just be normal?” Needless to say, my tantrums never got us to move back to our old home, so instead, I learned to be comfortable being the new girl.

When I was 19 and my family moved back to Brazil, I remember exchanging a rushed airport goodbye and walking away as quickly as I could. I didn’t look back but I could still hear my mother’s sobs as I sped down the New Jersey Turnpike, hoping that my loud music would drown out my own uncontrollable sobbing.

It seems that for as long as I could remember, the situations in my early life were a form of practice in perfecting the art of saying goodbye.

And yet, with so much practice in goodbyes, especially in this last year of my new life, I find myself affected more than ever by the weight of each farewell. 

Yesterday morning I left Portugal after an unbelievable 3-month experience. I spent the last week saying goodbye to new friends I had made and visiting all of places in the city that had become part of my daily life. I watched one final sunrise and swallowed hard to fight back the tears of sadness.

I know that it’s time to move on to the next experience. I know I can and will come back, but I still got hit with a wave of melancholy when it became real that this time and space I’ve created in my life, in Lisbon, this summer, will be gone forever.

I think this is what people call an occupational hazard.

I chose this. I chose to leave my family and friends and roam the world moving from country to country every couple of months. I chose this alternative lifestyle of nomadic living. I chose a life that can only continue to exist when I leave a place behind in order to begin all over again in someplace new.

But that doesn’t make it any easier. Sometimes I’m just not ready to go. Sometimes I want to stay a little longer savoring the sweetness of the place and the people that have started to feel familiar. Sometimes I wish I could slow down the time so I could see more and do more. 

But saying goodbye is part of my story. This is one of the sacrifices I have to make to continue to fulfill my life’s dream. 

So I try to take Jorge’s advice and confront my goodbyes head on. I may even allow myself to shed some tears because deep inside I know that the countless goodbyes also lead me to endless hellos.