At my first job as a staff interpreter, my colleagues would scold me because I would never saludar–say hello–at the beginning of the workday (I will just never be a morning person). They’d also razz me because I’d never despedirme–say goodbye–at the end of the workday when I’d leave to go home. I’d just slip out quietly, usually after a very tough and very busy day of healthcare interpreting. La despedida–the goodbye, the farewell–has never been my strong suit.
Earlier this year, in July, I said my goodbyes to the house that I bought the summer I turned 30 and then rented out this summer–the summer I turned 40. So many great (and not-so-great) parts of my life unfolded in that house, but I know that I can keep all those parts of my life and all those memories without still living in the house. I don’t need the house. Somebody else lives there now, but after I left I’d still catch myself just about to suggest dinner or drinks at my favorite neighborhood haunts. But, I’m not there anymore. Farewell, house. Farewell, neighborhood. Farewell, all the places where I met with friends, debriefed after a rough day, plotted and schemed, planned so many of my next moves–including grad school and my move to Toronto–over drinks.
I said my goodbyes to my job, the one I’d had for nearly four years, supervising interpreters. There are parts I thought I wouldn’t miss. The incident reports, the complaints, the cleaning up messes (sometimes my own), the correcting time cards. But these things were still a part of my routine for a long time. Farewell, incident reports, farewell complaints. Farewell, Monday morning time card routine: Bagel, strong coffee, and Listz’s Mephisto Waltz while I made my way through calendars and time off requests.
When you leave a job you’ve had for a long time–especially one that’s become difficult and feels unstable–you think you will walk out of there doing a happy dance and breathing a sigh of relief. I mostly just felt sad to leave the people that I had shared every workday with for seven years. I felt sad knowing that phase of my life was over. And I couldn’t feel too much relief, knowing that I was just trading one set of difficulties (a career that had run its course) for another (grad school and then looking for work).
When I first got to Toronto (OK, for like the first full three months), I wondered if I’d given up too much to be here. I hadn’t really. But in the beginning, the weight of grad school, the fact that I’d given up everything to be here, was crushing me. The having to publicly face my flaws, my knowledge and skill gaps, and stare up that learning curve without the usual distractions (workaholism, socializing, booze) was unbearable at first. Coming face-to-face with myself and feeling disappointed, frustrated, and lonely. The only way I could feel any relief and get out from underneath that weight was to imagine that I’d made a mistake in coming here, and it would all just be okay if I just went home.
I knew it would be tough. A week before school started, my boyfriend dropped me off at my place where I rent my tiny bedroom in Toronto. When we said goodbye, the thought flashed through my mind: I don’t have to do this. I can just go back home, go back to work, pretend like I never left, nobody will know the difference. I didn’t, of course. I closed my eyes and took a breath and said goodbye, and it was at once over and beginning, time to start again in Toronto. I knew it would be tough, and I did it anyway.
Here’s the thing: We say farewell, we feel grateful for our experiences, we embrace something new that we’ll have to let go of eventually. It’s not a neat, well-planned process. It’s messy, it’s thrilling. Scary sometimes. There are parts in between that are tough. But we do it anyway.
I’ve not gotten any better with the despedida, but I think I’ve gotten better at accepting it as part of life. Whatever 2015 brought you, I hope you were able to embrace it, and peacefully hold on to it or let go of it in 2016. Close your eyes, take a breath, and begin again.
As always, I invite you to use the comments to share your experiences of saying goodbye.