Is it harder being the leaver or the one being left?
The human heart is a strong and resilient organ. In our life, it never rests until our dying day. We can push it up to 250% of its resting rate, and it often does it without skipping a beat (pun very intended). Even if it does stop, a very strong jolt of electricity or a hand squeezing and massaging it can start it right back up and keep you going for many more years. Yet, sometimes strong emotions feel like they are enough to stop our hearts right in our chests, shatter it to pieces, or ache so badly we wish that we never had one or that we could just tear it right out of our chest. I can think of no event that elicits such a strong response as saying goodbye to someone.
Of course, there are many different kinds of goodbye. All of them elicit these same feelings in varying degrees. There is the pain of the permanent(?) farewell, where people pass away; there are the feelings that occur when you break up with a significant other or are forcefully separated from people you love because of estrangement, divorce, etc.; there is also the type of farewell where you know that it’s “bye for now, see you later”, though you may or may not know when “later” is.
Some of these are more severe than the others, and the strength required to recover from each of these situations differs from person to person. Everyone has different ways of coping, and everyone views these farewells in completely different ways.
Having traveled and lived in many places in my life, most of my farewells have (fortunately) been of the “bye for now, see you later” variety. For me, saying goodbye has become harder as I’ve gotten older. The first time I had to pick up and move to another country, I was 9 and didn’t really have many meaningful relationships to speak of. If anything, I was most excited to leave and have an adventure in another country. Graduating high school at 18 was a bit more difficult – I had spent virtually every moment of every day with my graduating class, and saying farewell and going our separate ways was like saying goodbye to 24 brothers and sisters.
Graduating from my Alma Mater was even more difficult, because not only was I attached to the people, but for the first time in a long time, I also felt attached to a place because it felt like home. Finally, most recently, saying farewell to people in London has felt the most difficult because it was for such a short period of time (one year), I had never forged such close and intimate relationships within a small social network, and I had never gone through as much with my closest friends in London as I had with most people in Rochester.
I know I will see many of these people again, but I can’t help but feel sadness and regret every time I leave a place because I know that I won’t be able to stay in touch with all of my friends and acquaintances from one place. Yet, I have found that sometimes, you forge closer friendships with people when you are no longer in the same place as them.
I miss everyone like crazy, especially my bestie and the people I most recently left in London. No matter what, know this: no matter what may have happened, good or bad, know that I treasured and valued every moment I had with you, and you have helped me become the person I am now. I look forward to the “later” part of “see you later”.
“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together, keep me in your heart; I’ll stay there forever.”
Photo from Lutheran Grilled Cheese