There is this feeling I get.
A dull ache in the pit of my stomach. A tug on my heartstrings. A bittersweet knowing that what once was, can never be again.
I feel it as I’m watching my brother’s face grow smaller in the rearview mirror.
I feel it as I wave wildly out the car window to match my parents equally enthusiastic waves.
I feel it in the hugs, the kisses, and the jokes shared between friends I’ve collected through the years.
It’s the ever-present, always crushing reality of goodbyes.
The fact that no matter what we try to do, we cannot slow down time. We cannot prevent our forward momentum. We are prisoners of time, captive to its sweeping clutches.
And so the ache widens. Numbing my fingertips and prickling tears to my eyes.
But I inhale a little sharper and wipe swiftly at my eyes, because I know this is a feeling I must become familiar with, an ache I must learn to corral.
I hate these sudden realizations that startle us in adulthood.
I had such sweet hopes and a rosy view of what it would be like to grow up and like plunging into icy water, the reality has been shocking to the system.
How could I have known the tears of homesickness that would pour down my cheeks the first night I slept in my dorm room?
How could I have foreseen the way I would miss the ordinary, Saturday morning grocery shopping with mum or standing beside the blazing fireplace in winter with my dad?
How could I have predicted that I would one day become best friends with my vexatious brother and that leaving him would feel like a kick to my gut?
But I know now the truth of adulthood. That goodbyes are endless. That death, loss and grief are inescapable. That loving anything or anyone will eventually leave you aching.
The older we get, the more pieces of ourselves we leave scattered in different places.
A piece curled up in our bedroom back home. A piece with our college roommate, a piece with the friends we met at church, a piece with our first boyfriends and a piece with the ones after that.
And even though I’m moving back home, even though I’m going to be closer to my parents, even though this is what I want, I feel so very sad.
I feels as though I keep moving to new places, digging my roots down and then once again I find myself being torn apart as I am are forced to say goodbye.
It seems that we are never really whole again. We will always be scattered in the places and people who shaped us.
Wherever we go, we leave loved ones behind.
It’s beautiful and tragic.
What a treasure it is to have friends spread out across the world like lighthouses. Beacons of familiarity and safety on our travels abroad.
How happy it makes me to find kindred spirits in my workplace. To feel accepted and find belonging among my colleagues.
And how lovely it is to find friends who feel like family, who become your brothers and sisters, who know and love you for who you are.
I am lucky to be so loved. I am lucky to love so much.
But that doesn’t make the goodbyes any easier.
That doesn’t soften my loss or comfort me in my loneliness.
The painful truth is that growing up means saying goodbye.
In this life we will always be shifting through seasons. We will always be in transition. People will always be coming and going; making their mark and subtly changing us.
Somehow, I think I’m getting better at saying goodbye.
Despite the tightness in my chest and the tears flooding the corners of my eyes.
I’ve realised that sometimes a goodbye is necessary for us to grow and evolve as people.
I think I have learnt to hold things and people more loosely than I used to. Not because I’m afraid of getting hurt, but because I know that some people aren’t meant to be in our lives forever.
I used to cling to friendships and potential love interests like they were lifesavers keeping me afloat.
I don’t feel that way anymore. I can do this on my own. I can keep floating without them.
I’m not afraid of the goodbye because I know there will be plenty of hellos to come. Friendships won’t be the same and that stings but I know I won’t be alone.
Relationships don’t define me because I am whole regardless of whether I am the other half of a couple or not.
But for those who are permanent fixtures in our lives, who we put down on our emergency contact list and who own a spare key to our house…
It’s never really goodbye anyway. It’s see you soon or see you later.
I am cheered by the fact our family and long time friends will never really fade into a blurry memory or become lost in the pile of unread mail.
For there are certain people you just never really say goodbye to. Despite years and distance, there is something that always draws you back. A connection that cannot be broken.
So I’m holding tightly to that with every last hug and wave out the car window. The ones who matter most of all aren’t disappearing forever.
It’s not goodbye…it’s see you soon or see you later.