The art of saying goodbye
“Of all the acts of doing something tough in life, saying a heartfelt goodbye is probably the hardest of all. No words quite gather together to form a definitive sentence—one that can bend itself like a bowl and hold within itself all the aching emotions of this heart. Maybe because, to say goodbye is to acknowledge that the end is almost there. Perhaps, it is coming to terms with the dawn of new beginnings but only after engaging with the dusk of what had once existed. People transitioning into stories, experiences, slipping into anecdotes of what once stretched to conquer a full day, packed with 24 hours of being a reality, and now suddenly is nothing but capsules of nostalgia that will unexpectedly show up, asking for a home amidst the conversations with strangers and moments of self-reflection.”
I maintained a journal and wrote everyday on my Africa Tour, an act I consider heroic given my exceptional talent for procrastination, given my ability to actually remember most of the things that happen or the way I feel when they happen. Yet it took me by surprise, reading this little excerpt from one of the last pages of my journal this morning. I often wonder how I survived saying goodbye to all the bright smiles in Nepal post-earthquake. I was teaching there for almost two weeks and not a single day went by in oblivion of the privilege we have to simply breathe. I have had marvelous opportunities to immerse myself in classrooms from across the world—from middle-school students in Afghanistan to refugees in Syria; from sex-workers in Kamathipura to the villagers on the last village of a glacier. And each of them offered to be a folk melody that one might forget the lyrics of, but every once in a while one might find themselves humming the tune of the same unassumingly. As an educator and a conversationalist, I have realized that I offer myself completely to people when I am with them. No hint of reservation and full access to whatever knowledge I have and whatever I can share. The act I find challenging is when the class or the conversation is over, to lift yourself up from across someone and head towards the door. To lift your hands to give them a parting hug and when you don’t exactly know the right words to say how you feel. Words are complex and diverse, and so I return to what I wrote on the journal as an antidote for my healing to begin.
“Goodbye is, most certainly, the toughest word in the dictionary. It is too much and too little. It is reckless and riveting. It makes everything intractable. But there is a trick of passing this exam as well i.e. filling your heart with gratitude and placing them on your lips, say ‘Thank you-s’ more often. And whisper in soft semi-tones to yourself that ‘It’s okay’. It is okay, wanting to say simply, genuinely with a hint of hope to people and places–