I said goodbye again today.
Notice the “again”? You would think it would be easy by now. It’s my seventh move.
The cynical part of me says it’s my life. These goodbyes, they are my life.
I haven’t cried yet. Just a few tears in my eyes last night, but not crying, not that “good cry” all the books talk about. Funny how I can cry at such little, everyday things and then when it’s actually appropriate—expected, even—to cry, I bottle up all the tears inside and screw on the cap tight. I say I’m afraid of crying in front of people, which I guess is true, but it’s not so much that as it is simply being afraid to cry.
Because when you cry, you admit the pain. You embrace it. You open yourself up to it. And I don’t want to feel the pain. It’s too much.
Even now as the goodbyes are tearing me apart, I have to look ahead at the hellos. I hate the hellos, as much as I hate the goodbyes, but in a different way. They are so awkward, so embarrassing. I feel like a worm beneath their alien eyes. Walking into a room of strangers, remembering all your past experiences of struggling to make friends and fit in and feel included, knowing here you are, at it again—it’s torture. The hellos and goodbyes—why do I do it?
Just, why do we do this to ourselves? Who would choose this life?
A still, small voice whispers:
Because of the in-betweens.
Yes, the struggle of the hello can last long, and yes, the pain of the goodbye haunts your every step, but neither can drown out the beauty of the in-between moments.
The memory-making, the discovering of each other, the late-night laughter, the lighting up of your eyes when you see them, the inside jokes, the firsts and the traditions, all of it. The delight of a new friendship and the glow of feeling that you belong. It all happens between the hello and the goodbye.
You’ll notice that the hello and the goodbye don’t really last that long, not when compared with all that happens in the middle.
For every bucket of tears, a boatload of laughter.
For every faded long distance relationship, one that lasts and grows stronger.
For every awkward beginning, a thousand ways to a happy ending.
Of course, right now I’m not feeling any of this. Right now I’m hurting because people I love are being torn away and tearing is painful. Right now I’m facing the future with dread because people I don’t know are about to step into my life, and that, for me, is hard and scary. And I’m so storming tired. I’m tired of trying to make friends, of working up the courage to say hello, of gritting my teeth through the loneliness. I’m tired of letting loved ones go, of walking away from my belonging place, of bleeding from new soul scars. I’m tired of it all, and it’s hard to remember the good times. The times when I felt alive, when I felt that it all was worth it.
Because it is. I have to believe that. The beauty of the friendships I’ve made and communities I’ve been a part of are worth the awkwardness of arriving and the heartache of leaving.
Why do we live like this? Because we are not just part of one family or one community—we are part of many, each one ministering to us in a special way . Because every time we leave old friends we make new ones, and the old and the new join together in our hearts to form an ever-growing song of love and joy and encouragement. Because we know the cost of friendship and therefore know how truly precious it is.
Because it makes us brave. Brave, to start all over again—and again and again—and open yourself up to love knowing you’ll have to tear yourself from it in just a few short years.
They could make me bitter, all these goodbyes. They could make me isolate myself from everyone. They could make me cling to my friends and be terrified to leave. But I refuse to live that way.
I want to rejoice in each moment because I know how fast they go. I want to remember and keep in touch with those I have left without relying on them for my identity. I want to face the future unafraid and welcome new people into my life. I want to work at building relationships with joy even if I know we’ll be separated soon. I want to brim over with love and walk in fullness of joy. I want to be brave.
So I’ll whisper goodbye and mumble hello and stumble my way through this messy business of loving other people, and I know that I’ll find light shining through all the cracks and melding them together into something breathtakingly beautiful.