Amidst student goodbyes and last day of class Instagram photos and watching undergraduates tentatively try on their brand new, unwrinkled caps and gowns, I had a stupid thought today – that I had gotten good at goodbyes.
It hit me when I walked out of my favorite yoga instructor’s last class this evening, I’m not good at goodbyes. I’m just used to them. In fact, I might have gotten worse at them.
I’m never ready to leave, especially when everyone else is. I’ve been indecisive since birth – I want adventures, but I also want to stay close. You can see this in the fact that I was born a ‘tad early, but it took me a full day to make it here…I was ready, but then I wasn’t.
I wasn’t ready to leave high school, I wasn’t prepared for my undergraduate career’s close, and I’m certainly not ready to leave Gainesville. It might be because I haven’t defended my master’s project (or completed it for that matter) so I’m not finished yet, but I will be soon. And I’m not ready.
I’m used to goodbyes. My close-knit high school friends went our separate ways and drifted away. I said goodbye to my fellow AmeriCorps members and my classes of students each year. I’ve said goodbye to bosses and co-workers, to my Brothers, to roommates and to boyfriends. To my grandmother and to my favorite dog, three years ago today. To a good friend at nineteen.
I’m not good at them though. Sure, I’m good at thank-you cards. I can tell you how appreciative I was for your help or your hard work. I’m good at follow-up emails and liking your Facebook posts.
But walking out of yoga tonight, I just waved. This instructor has been one of my favorites since I started doing yoga more than a year and a half ago. She was tough at first and challenging, but I’ve grown and I try to go to her classes as much as possible. She knows my name and I recognize when her hair has changed or her classes are new. She’s leaving at the end of finals week, and as we wrapped up class, I thought about how much she had taught me, how much she influenced my love for yoga and how I should tell her…but I didn’t. I walked out of class with my stomach swirling.
Maybe it’s because the official goodbye makes it real. The “see you later” or avoidance altogether allows you to pretend you’ll see this person again, that of course this person knows how much you cared about them.
And many people will stay. “Love finds a way” or all that jazz. I have friends I’ve known since I was five, since I was eleven, since I was in high school, that I keep in touch with, that I see periodically. My undergraduate roommates – girls who shared every minute of my life for four years – are still huge parts of my life. I still drop by my high school history teacher’s house every time I visit home. My Big is visiting me this weekend.
But so many people won’t. You don’t have the capacity to keep everyone. You’ll move to a new town or a new job or a new place and you’ll make new friends who will need room. They’ll need room in your heart, and that’s okay.
The receptionist that you say good morning to everyday, that Starbucks worker who recognizes your face and knows your order, or the guy at the pharmacy who always makes you laugh – they will fade away. You’ll forget names and you’ll forget faces and it’s crazy, but if you’re anything like me…you’ll miss them.
I still remember the angsty mailman who brought us mail every day when I worked for USF Housing. He probably doesn’t remember me, but he was a character in my life story. So was Matt, the pharmacist, who talked to me for too long every time I visited CVS in Tampa, or the bartenders in downtown Orlando whose names I don’t know but whose tattoos I’d recognize in a heartbeat. I had a hairdresser once, he moved across the country. I had classmates who shared their notes every time one of us skipped. I had a teacher once who spent so much extra time with me when I was too young to know to write thank-you notes.
And yet, we don’t tell these people they are important. We don’t tell them how much they mean to us. We don’t tell the minor actors because we don’t tell the major ones either. Maybe I’m rambling, but I don’t think I’m the only one who finds it hard to put into words how much someone means to me.
I think my mother knows I love her and that I’d die without her. I think my dad and sister know the same. A few of my best friends know they are my #dayones and my dog certainly knows it.
But I didn’t tell my yoga teacher how much of an impact she had on my life. I don’t know if my students know how much they taught me – my high schoolers and my undergraduates. I don’t think my third grader knows how much I looked forward to our tutoring sessions each week. I’m not sure my boss realizes he is the best I’ve ever had and I couldn’t have asked for a better mentor.
I’ve said goodbye to significant people before, to people who have left imprints on my heart. To nuns in Apopka whose lessons resonate with me every day that I breathe, to a boy who taught me to embrace life, to students who taught me to step outside myself and showed me what perseverance really is, to journalists who taught me about integrity and ethics, to a man who let me love again.
Tell them. Don’t just laugh and take the Boomerang videos and shout “I’m done! See you around.” Do that. And mean it. But tell them too. Tell them how they’ve changed your life. Let yourself cry and let yourself be torn between the adventure to come and all that you’re leaving behind. The cliché saying goes, “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” and that’s true. But if you’re anything like me, you’d prefer not to ever have to say goodbye.
Someone told me recently to be clear and confident about what I want. I think the same goes for how you feel. Tell them how much they mean to you. Tell them how you feel. Tell them what you want. Because when you’re on your way out…what do you have to lose? At the end of the day, you really have nothing to lose. Nothing but knowing you let your heart grow and let beautiful souls into it.
If you’re anything like me, you’d prefer not to ever have to say goodbye. And you’ll eventually have more than you can count. But it’s okay if you never get better at them. Just make sure to leave with your heart open.