I had a pang of jealously this morning when my friend Stacey was in tears after a long, crying farewell. I'm not envious she's moving to California next week (yes I am! it sounds like fun!) but rather that she's able to say good bye. I've watched her countless times over the past few weeks reach out to people for a big hug and say, "it was so great to know you!" How does she do that?
Here's how I quit a job: I hang on until I can't take it anymore and just walk out the door. Here's how I moved away from my hometown: I packed a U-Haul with a mattress and some cronies and left. Here's how I ended my last relationship before I met my husband: I yelled, "it's over!" and sped away in a car and didn't see the guy again until I passed him on the street one day after I was married and pregnant. I end things with finality and a sometimes, fury. If I'm saying good bye for good, so far in my life, it's been for good reason. Maybe it started with being thrown out and disowned at 17? I imagine when I die I'll simply say "that's it!" and keel over.
Me dancing on the conference room table after giving notice at my first real job in Chicago
Other times my good byes are regrettably nothing at all. After high school graduation, I never said good bye to Janet Leisner, a school administrator who saved my butt and changed my life. I just wandered off to college without fanfare. Sometime during college I ended an increasingly sporadic set of phone calls to the woman who had taken me in to her home and treated me like a daughter with "gotta go!" I moved on and eventually moved away.
I'm the grand master of fading out. I'm the worst. When I think about all the people with whom I've been close that I never said a proper good bye, it makes me really sad.
In some instances, I didn't realize it was really good bye. I figured I'd visit. I planned to write letters. Sometimes I justified skulking off to my car after a "last day" that surely I would return, like when I moved to England for a semester. The ladies at my job baked me a farewell cake, but I didn't tear up. I was coming back! In just six months! What everyone in that office knew but me was that I wasn't coming back, just like I didn't go back to my advertising job after I had my first baby and I didn't "go home and think about it" when I was car-shopping and walked out of a Suzuki dealership.
For me, pretending it's not good bye is sometimes the only good bye I can muster*.
When I see the courage of someone leaving for higher ground and not burning bridges, but hugging and crying and facing the fact of what a good bye is, a good bye forever, I'm jealous. I wish I had the strength of character to craft my good byes as healthy closures to meaningful relationships instead of embarrassing snot fests full of rejection. When I leave, it feels like I'm saying . . .
- Nanana boo-boo, I'm out of this stink hole and you're not!
- You are not cool enough to keep hanging with me, I'm so rad. (I better go do something impressive now!)
- Actually, your coolness is irrelevant because I hate your guts
- No seriously, I'm coming back. In just six months!
Sometimes you are indeed saying that when you say good bye. You're a lucky person if the last things you say when parting are "I love you!" and "it's been so great knowing you!" My suggestion is to pretend this is the situation on every occasion of saying good bye. Make eye contact. Tell the person you value them, but its over. Then get the fuck out of dodge with peace in your heart.
I imagine Stacey's funeral one day will be filled with hugging, sobbing compatriots. The Facebook generation will be friends until the world collapses. Me? Meh, I'll just do the fade out and imagine a blaze of glory behind me as I go.
*Don't get too excited because you are stuck with me FOREVER, Internet!