I’ve spent the past few weeks slowly saying my bittersweet goodbyes to friends and family. With a one-way ticket, a single bag, and no set end date, I’m about to leave the US for my travels.

The simple things become sweeter right before the end of a chapter.

I thought, maybe I shouldn’t say goodbye. It’s too hard. Might as well not make this a big deal and ghost out of there. But no, don’t be ridiculous.

I desperately wanted to make sure my friends knew how much they meant to me. I want to appreciate these amazing souls for the impact they’ve had on my life and the thousands of memories shared from seemingly insignificant to profound. 

A friend said, “It’s not like you’re dying.” I know… it’s just ‘goodbye for now’ or ‘I’ll see you again soon’. At the same time, this version of me is dying. We’ll be different when we see each other again. I want to treasure this moment in time, this current evolution of our friendship, before we go our separate ways.  

The sweetest, saddest moments in a friendship may be in the goodbyes.

But the goodbye process hasn’t been all sad. The month was full of laughter and new memories made in groups, as well as cherished nights 1:1, talking for hours on the floor of my bare apartment.

With those you’re meant to share life with, nothing will change at all.

I sold or donated most of my furniture and possessions, feeling freer as I purged. But packing up all the sentimental letters, journals, and paintings was hard. These kept me grounded to my memories and past self. One by one, letting go of them meant trusting that they’ll be preserved in my memory. I must re-experience and re-create my evolving identity on the road.

With each possession you let go, you lose a part of yourself: memories, old habits, comfort… to create room for something new. For growth, new experiences, rediscovery. A reconstruction of the self in new contexts. You’re creating space for the future You.

You realize there’s no permanent identity to hold on to after all.

I stood in my bare apartment, in the ten minutes of quiet before returning my keys. All of a sudden, I felt gratitude for this place I called home for a short year of my life. It was a sanctuary – my first apartment where I lived alone. I gathered friends here, painted, wrote, and moonwalked in my socks across the slippery floor.

I’m leaving this home to now make the world my home.

The hardest goodbye was next.

“Ever it has been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.” – Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

It was time to say goodbye to my family. I was so lucky to live less than an hour away from my parents and sister for the past five years. Eyes shining with tears, my mom hugged me tightly. “I love you and am really proud of you, but as a mother it’s tough to see you off again,” she told me. “I feel like you’re preparing to not come back, and you’ll find a place to settle somewhere in the world. I get emotional just thinking about it.”

I’m sure there’s no love like a mother’s love. Feeling pain mixed with blinding pride, she watches her children fly free over and over again in life. It tears my heart to leave my family, but I know that in order to come back home, I must go first. I hope to grow into a better daughter, and sister, through my trip. 

The hour before a goodbye is the most bittersweet. It’s helplessness, nostalgia, and that sore pain in the back of your throat. But most overwhelming of all, it’s gratitude.

Feel the gratitude spread from your chest to envelop the beautiful people in your life, warmer than before. It means you loved, and are loved – and you’re less alone than you may think.

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