The Art of Saying Goodbye

One of my good friends recently moved from Boulder, and when he did we didn’t say goodbye. Part of it was an honest miscommunication, but I suspect that a part of it may have been purposeful on both our ends. The day he left, I texted him: “Are you gone?? Dang, I thought you were leaving tomorrow…it’s probably for the best. Goodbyes suck.” He replied, “I agree.” I wished him a safe & fun trip. And somehow, that was okay for both of us.

***

For a while, while we were traveling and moving around, life seemed like an endless series of goodbyes. A lot of them were said tearfully with the knowledge that you would likely never see this person again, as you went separate ways and moved on to places halfway across the world. When we “settled down” in Boulder we did so gratefully. We looked forward to making friends and making memories with these friends over the course of years. We were tired of saying goodbye.

For a while it looked like this might the case and we were happy. It took several months but we made a good solid group of friends, and we did fun things in the different seasons. Skied in the winter. Rode bikes, camped and hiked in the summer. Watched the leaves change in the fall. But then it started happening again – people started leaving.

Boulder is a transient town, but I don’t think it’s just that. I think it’s the types of people we’re most attracted to – free spirits, those with a sense of adventure. These types are fun and inspiring individuals, but they’re not very stable or predictable, and by definition they don’t tend to stick around in one place for too long.

One by one, the best friends we made in Boulder have begun leaving, moving on the next chapter in their lives. When I was younger, I used to make a very big deal out of parting. Goodbye parties, last weekends together, long, tearful and drawn out goodbyes. When people left my life more figuratively, whether in the form of romances gone sour or simply friends that drifted apart, I mourned them for far too long. I was sentimental, got attached to people. But finally over the course of the past couple years I came to accept that saying goodbye is just a part of life. That we all move and move on, and that you can’t hold on to people any more than you can hold on to a cool breeze on a hot day, or a break of sunshine in the clouds that provides warmth to the your bare skin. A real connection between two individuals is a natural phenomenon not unlike the 360-degree view of from the top of one of the Rocky Mountains, the aspens glowing green in the height of summer. Or the sight of a million bright stars in the night sky, in the middle of the countryside, miles and miles from anywhere. No photograph or keepsake could ever do it justice. So you enjoy it the only way it can be enjoyed – in the moment, savoring it now, bottling a little bit of it in your mind for the future. And when it’s time to let it go you do so gracefully, knowing that with its memory, your life is full of more color and beauty.

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