How I Say Goodbye: a Reflection from a Frequent Traveler

My life has changed considerably over the last 20 or so years. I moved several times growing up, and lived in eight different states and four different countries. After graduating from college, and before moving to Salem, I haven’t lived in one place for more than 2 years. While I was traveling abroad, my parents sold our family home again and moved next to my sister and two brothers–leaving me and my husband several states up North.

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Goodbye Florence, Italy

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Goodbye Tallinn, Estonia

Goodbye Chicago

Goodbye Chicago

How I say goodbye.

Cleanly. Without tears. Sometimes beforehand, I will write a letter or create a small gift—give them some token words or wrapped trinket—anything to let them know how much they have meant to me. Somehow it is never enough, and yet it must be enough.

Somehow when the actual moment comes, it is over too quickly. I find myself feeling stoic and hight-headed. I float away from myself, watching my mouth moving, saying the words. Goodbye. I will miss you. Let’s keep in touch.

"Transitions", mixed media, 2007

“Transitions”, mixed media, 2007

I tell myself that saying goodbye is part of the natural cycle of life.

I tell myself that change is inevitable, and I should be grateful for each thing and person who comes and goes in my life, leaving imprints on my life in unique and profound ways.

It seems I have said a thousand goodbyes: to loved ones, both old and new, strangers I have connected with for a moment; people who have shown me kindness on foreign lands. I have said farewell to houses and cars, neighborhoods, my “bestest” childhood friend, seven dogs and three cats.

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“Conversation”, Mixed Media, 2007

Goodbye familiar smells, sounds, routines, comfortable beliefs I can finally acknowledge no longer work.

Goodbye to thinking my parents are infallible, and will live forever.

Goodbye black & white thinking and long hair that grows past my waist.

Goodbye smooth skin, pre-pregnancy body, and sleeping in past 7am.

Goodbye to thinking about myself first. Goodbye to quick trips and last-minute runs to the movie theater.

Hello sweet Jenna!

Hello sweet Jenna!

Goodbye piano, cello, knitting, and fluency in 2 foreign languages

Goodbye blame and guilt over not having the time to do everything I want to do. Goodbye to being afraid to set limits with myself and say “no, I can’t do this right now.”

Goodbye dear, beloved friends.

It’s comforting to know that some goodbye’s are not forever. They are simply shelved away to be rediscovered at a later time. But the rest, I must sweep away like a good spring-cleaning, get ready for the new set of furniture. What other choice to I have? If I hung on to all of my goodbye’s I’d be dragging around the weight of a thousand memories, hunched over and hobbling. There is no sense dwelling on the past if I want to live in the present. Right?

"Self Portrait", Mixed Media, 2012

“Self Portrait”, Mixed Media, 2012

But I am not being entirely honest with you. I haven’t told you of a secret place I keep very hidden. In it lie a thousand crumpled letters to those I have left behind, or who have left me. There are images, smells, a look on someone’s face, a touch of the hand, remnants of late-night conversations and emotions too raw and real to ever forget. Scraps of memories that create the foundation on which I exist. They are weightless, yet full of substance: indelible impressions on my soul.

"Untitled," Mixed Media, 2007

“Splash,” Mixed Media, 2007

And deep down, I hope I leave an impression as equally meaningful and alive.

But still, I say goodbye. Cleanly. Without tears.

–Madelene

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