I really hate goodbyes. And depending on who I am saying goodbye to, I can get very emotional. I try so hard not to cry. I use tactics such as avoiding eye contact, use an abrupt, short tone and cut off conversations. I want to escape to my safe place as soon as possible. Basically, someone may consider me quite rude. But that is not my intention. I just want it to be over and done with.
After watching me say goodbye to a loved one, a comment was made by a friend: Why are you crying? Why does saying goodbye make you so upset?
I was taken aback. Because I love them. And I am going to miss them. I don’t want them to leave.
You’ll see them again?
But what if I don’t? I was confused.
If you saw me cry while I was saying goodbye to my family, would you think it weird?
I thought to myself. Of course I would find it weird, because you see them quite often, every couple of months or so. And I’ve never seen you get very emotional, and by emotional I mean crying…so heck yeah, it would be very bizarre!
Yes, it would be weird.
So then, don’t you think it an extreme response?
I thought about it some more, trying to answer the question. Why do I get so emotional? Admittedly I do not cry if I am saying goodbye to my cousin, or a close friend who lives in Melbourne, or a few hours away. It might be 3 months until our next catch up, but I know I am going to see them again soon. There are some friends that I haven’t seen for over a year. A year is a long time. Yes I miss them, and think about them, but I know we will meet again, so when I say goodbye to them after a gathering, I do not cry over it.
However, I still find the goodbye process awkward. I hate how it can drag on. I have a friend who spends an hour saying goodbye to people. Getting into long conversations with each person as she says goodbye. It is what I love about her and contributes to her ‘specialness’. Goodbyes don’t make her feel uncomfortable, and I know everyone appreciates the individual attention she gives them. But to me, the thought of it is painful!
Why so painful? Well when my friend asked me, I didn’t know where it stemmed from. I never thought it to be ‘weird’ or ‘extreme.’ It was just ‘normal.’ It could be a result of my family’s Croatian and Macedonian heritage. They are known to be passionate, emotional people. I’ve seen my aunty, cousins and siblings cry when saying goodbye. Yet my friend’s question did jolt me: is it just because I am sensitive or is there a deep-seated cause?
As I was peeling back the layers in this piece, realisation hit me like a slap in the face: saying goodbye have been dramatic experiences for me. I still view them through this lense. All of a sudden, someone near and dear to me ‘disappeared.’ No explanation given. It was what it was. They just weren’t there. And I don’t mean ‘The Sopranos’ style.’ For one reason or another, a conflict was not resolved. So as a kid, it was difficult to find out why and no way of contacting them. Now as an adult, they may be contactable, but for one reason or another, you are on different paths…paths, which do not cross for many, many years. And you never know if they will again.
I used to cry every time I said goodbye to my Uncle because I never knew when I would see him. I felt close to him and loved spending time with him and his family. Then there would be a period of 2-3 years where I did not see him. We didn’t have computers back then so no way of seeing what he was up to, or contacting him via email or Skype. Unfortunately I couldn’t just pick up the phone and call him. I may see him a couple of times for a few months, then nothing. This happened as long as I can remember. One time when I was about 12 he turned up at our house out of the blue. I saw his car coming up the driveway and screamed with excitement. I ran jumping into his arms. Crying tears of joy, but also tears of sadness because I knew I had to value every second with him. Time would go so quick.
So here I was again, saying goodbye to him at the depot in Nakuru, homeward bound after spending a month together. Of course I cried. Not only because I will miss him, but for all the years we missed together, for all the years missed with other family members and dear friends. I cried for the last month we shared. He got to know me as an adult. He found out what I’ve been up to, what I was like as a teenager, about high-school, university, my views on love, life, hopes, dreams and fears. And I learned about his projects; his hopes, fears, passions and the love he has for humanity. I cried, releasing years of stored emotions. I knew that this time it would be different.
He watched me get on the bus with tears in his eyes. It’s not goodbye, but see you soon! I smiled holding onto this thought.
So to my friend who asked me why I react with tears, I hope this answers your question. However I do hope my perspective has shifted positively through this musing.
And to my friends; when I ‘phantom’ from a party or gathering, or you see me having difficulty when saying goodbye, just know that I value your time, friendship and love. Saying goodbye is never easy.
And to my loved ones who I haven’t seen for a long time. You know who you are. I will always be here, thinking of you and loving you. I hope our paths meet again.
I cry because I feel…and to feel is to be alive.