This post is dedicated to anyone who is faced with saying good-bye to something soon, but especially to Gabby, who will be leaving SA in just a few days time.
It is my opinion that something that creates a large amount of Young Adult Angst (or YAA, which could represent well the sound I sometimes make when I fall victim to this type of angst) is the fact that young adults have to say good-bye to a lot of things. Childhood, college life, beautiful people and places—you name it, we probably have to say good-bye to it. And especially with the last two things mentioned, often the "good"-byes don't really seem like they can be good. When your heart is breaking on a plane ride or drive home with the realization that you may not see that landscape and the people you've met for a very long time, or, as in a sadly large number of cases, you may not see them ever again—it can be hard to find much "good" in leave-taking.
Which is why I don't think we should try to mask the fact that it's very sad, and almost horrible in some ways. It's the death of living memories, after all. Once you leave, the place and the people will take on a haze that memory always takes: even the most vivid memories are static—taxidermied, if you will. Not the same as the living thing.
So when I think about the "badness" of good byes, I think about something that someone once told me in my last days at Oxford. The last Sunday we were there, a group of us went to St. Ebbes in Headington for church. It was a fantastic children's service that week, with some Christmas skits featuring little British kids with tea-towels on their heads—brilliant. Afterwards, as always, was a tea and biscuits and mingling time. We talked with an American who had been staying in Oxford for a while, his name was Jimmy. The regular St. Ebbes goers from The Vines wanted to say good-bye to him, since they'd gotten to know him a bit in months we'd been there. We talked about good-byes, coming to the same conclusion I've come to here, that they're pretty rough, but Jimmy said something that has stuck with me. I'm paraphrasing, so this isn't a direct quote, but he told us,
"There's something I've heard some of the Brits say here, and I like it a lot—instead of saying good-bye, they'll say "Go Well." I might not be able to call my leaving "good," but I can go well."
To me, the phrase make it also feel less like the ending of something, and more like the beginning of something. I'm not leaving, but "going well" to another place.
And though taxidermied memory takes over for real experience, there is still something good there: it is preserved. Not exactly as you knew it, but still preserved. And I've found that it is difficult to realize the profound effect that people and places have on you in the moments you are experiencing it. Life-changing events and experiences only become so once you've moved on from them and left them in the past. Otherwise, instead of live-changing, they simply become normalcy, something taken for granted. The old phrase, "you don't realize how important something is until it's gone" is very true. I sometimes wish that my heart didn't ache to go back to places, or see people, but if it didn't, how would I ever know those things were important to me?
So, those of you who are leaving:
embrace the ache and Go Well into a new adventure.
Sunrise in South Africa—courtesy of Gabby