Saying goodbye has always terrified me. My “farewellphobia” started when I was 18 and had to move to England to study. I didn’t want my parents to come to the airport but they did. I checked my bag, hugged them quickly, said bye and ran away. I knew they were looking at me, expecting for me to turn as I was going up the escalator that was leading to the gate. I never looked back. I didn’t want them to see my face covered in tears. I had to be strong. Why do we have to hug and tell ourselves how much it would hurt to live without each other’s company? Goodbyes shouldn’t last for more than four seconds, long enough to say, “I miss you.” Can’t we just deny the pain and continue with our lives? The more I traveled the world, the more goodbyes I had to avoid. I am just a human. I get attached to people and places. I create friendships, occasionally fall in love, or appreciate and remember all the bright strangers who have helped me in trouble. Meeting someone amazing makes saying farewell a heartbreaking experience.
Recently, I stayed at Roam Miami, a co-living space where I met many inspiring souls who changed my perceptions in a way. On my last night, I sat by the pool and decided to question my own beliefs. For the first time in eight years, I made a decision to face my fear of extended goodbyes and do the contrary to what I have always done. I was inspired by a Serbian artist, Marina Abramovic, and her story of how she and her partner Ulay ended their relationship. Instead of just saying it, they both walked The Great Wall of China for three months, starting from two different points.
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“It was difficult, it was climbing, it was ruins, it was going through the twelve Chinese promises. This was before China was open and we succeeded to meet in the middle to say goodbye. And then our relation stopped.” Marina’s example was so powerful that it helped me realize that the people we connect with deserve some sort of a ritual when we part. Maybe it is true that the stronger our connection with the other person is, the more challenging and long the farewell ritual has to be.
Saying goodbye is, in fact, a ritual that makes each hug meaningful, reminding of the relationship you’ve had. In the end, we will only regret not saying goodbye to a person we care about, especially if an unfortunate accident takes his life away. The most painful goodbyes are the ones that we have never said.
Antiquated goodbye formulations, such as ‘fare-well’, or the even older, ‘fare thee well’ reveal that at the heart, goodbyes are blessings. We bless the other person’s going and coming, wishing that they may be well while away. In order to make our goodbyes a blessing, all we have to do is to pay attention to the moment and create an intention of goodwill in our heart.
The intention is more important than how we say goodbye. We may hug, kiss, have extended conversations just before we part, throw a party in our friend’s honor, escort the other person to the door, wave at her car as we watch it disappear in the horizon.
On my last day at Roam, I stayed in the garden, talking to the incredible people who lived there, hugging them spontaneously. I embraced the sadness, instead of running away from it. And then what happened surprised me. It was painful only for a moment but the pain transformed into something beautiful. I felt appreciated and loved. Everybody I’ve connected with on a deeper human level gathered around me by the gate as I was waiting for my Uber to arrive and take me to the airport. Instead of running away and suffering alone, I said proper goodbyes and it helped me let go. We ought to let go if we want to free our heart from the expectations that chain it so that we can let relationships transform us.
Keep the sweet memories and don’t fight the waters when they get rough. Relax your mind and let it float. The rough waters might as well take you back.