The Art of Saying Goodbye

Every Tuesday, I collect my used sheets and week’s worth of work outfits and running attire, and walk two blocks down to the laundromat. Immediately upon entering, my new friend Brian—an endlessly enthusiastic, imaginative and adventurous 6-year-old boy— runs over to me and asks to play cars. And for the next 58 minutes, I will get lost in Brian’s chaotic world of explosions and speed races.  

 When it’s my finally time for me to leave, Brian will always grab my hands and say the same six letter goodbye: “Thank you. I love you. Goodbye!"

I will never not be startled by Brian's farewell. For starters, I can't help but remember how I was far more careless with my words at his age. I hated goodbyes. It meant having to go to bed. It meant the end of a play date. It meant the end of something. 

What shocks me the most about Brian's words though is that they are not sad or poignant. They are simple, familiar and tender, and together, extraordinarily powerful. They are the same words I have said on countless occasions to the individuals I love.

Brian's farewell had me thinking about goodbyes recently. It helped me notice a particular art in them. Saying "goodbye" does not mean leaving. It is a way of being present. Goodbye is actively deciding to acknowledge, accept and embrace the fluidity of the eternal now. 

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 The first time the concept of saying goodbye really struck me was at 18 when my first boyfriend and I were discussing our college plans. We were in the middle of balancing final exams, admission applications and less than exciting part-time jobs, and the fleeting reality of our relationship was starting to sink in. 

As we waded handed-in-hand through our final few weeks as a couple, we spontaneously decided to adventure into Boston for the Italian Food Festival in the North End, where he looked at me and said, "I know it's ending, and because of that I can't help but still fall more and more in love with you." 

Most days wash over you, but this day is carved into me. In the midst of heartbreak, we found something incredibly magical and light. We danced through the remainder of the night— smiling, giddy and grateful, just like the two school kids we were when first met at summer camp and he asked me to dance eight years earlier. I had never experienced anything like it before in my life. It was pure awareness and vulnerability in all of its fragility.

Some people would say we were stupid for walking away from the relationship just because we were graduating into the next step of our academic career, and I can see why they would say that. But I have never looked at our breakup as a tragedy — it gave us the space, time and opportunity to develop into the individuals we needed to become. And he recently reached out the other day to catch up, which proves that nothing ever really ends. Even when it ends. 

Thank you. I love you. Goodbye.

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The past five years have been a never-ending lesson in the art of saying goodbye and how it can continuously soften and teach us to live more openly. In these years, I have spent my time shuffling, dancing and laughing between temporary leases, bars, museums and subways lines—  always in motion. I caught onto a rhythm, where I have started to understand and completely absorb things that come my way — the good, the bad, the average. I realized that everything ends, and this is more than OK. In fact, the ending gave each moment its meaning. I began to suck the marrow out of each millisecond. 

I realized that the friends I made today might be gone tomorrow and it will hurt, but something else will happen. You will either be alone, which will be interesting it itself, or you will meet someone else just as magical to experience this amazing world with.

Some days, you will stay out until seven in the morning with your roommates — dancing the night away to David Bowie and kissing boys with a conspicuous accent. Other days, you will be alone, eating prepacked meals in a Pret A Manger, watching the rain flood the streets. But this doesn't make any moment less incredible. 

The magic only stops when you let it. Each ending is a kiss on the beginning. Each moment is a gift. 

So say goodbye, a lot. Goodbye is "thank you, I love you."