Leaving feels familiar. Moving feels familiar. It feels like all the ways I said goodbye to that little tell-all town back at eighteen, but it feels heavier too. I think about all the things I’ve experienced here: the broken hearts, the times I felt so full I thought I might burst, the quiet moments on the Mississippi, the skinned knees, the freeway at 3 AM with the windows rolled all the way down.
Four years ago I stood on the edge of all I’d ever known. Now I stand on a different edge: just as scary, just as exciting. This city gave me a home as unique, and unforgiving, and important as the one in my dreams. I have loved here. I have lost here. I have danced in its streets. I have greeted the cracks in the sidewalk like old friends. Anywhere I go from here will be tainted with the incessant love of life I have found after too many Monday nights under neon lights.
I am well versed in the art of goodbye. I stay until the staying no longer makes sense. Until my feet start tapping out of restlessness. Or until the car is all packed and there is nothing to do except drive. There is something so important about the places that raise us – that mold us into whatever final shape we have envisioned for ourselves. There’s something important in the goodbye, too.
I’ve found there’s a leaving period that starts long before you ever have to physically leave a place. It starts as soon as you recognize the first “last.” The last first time you’ll go to class, the last time you’ll wear beads around your neck for an entire week, the last rent check. The leaving hangs in the air, at first, like a gentle reminder: be present for this, feel the entirety of it. As time falls through cupped hands as it always does, the leaving wraps almost everything it touches in a bittersweet coating. This is how the story goes. This is how the leaving begins.
This time, I know the story by heart. I know the anxiety that comes from the unknown. I know the bartering that goes on: begging the minute hand to move just a little bit slower.
I know people will write in their own goodbye scene and it won’t always be the one we pictured. Sometimes it will come long before we thought it would. It’s best that, even with a heavy heart, we let them go. I know it’s a universal experience, but a deeply personal one. We’re all packing suitcases and taping up boxes and stealing glances that say: Do you feel this too? The weight of it? There are so many ways to say goodbye. So many ways in fact, words rarely work. At least not in the way I need them to.
I need them to put a name to the late nights, the lazy Sundays, the uninhibited laughter, the Jazz, the humidity, the streets with trees for their namesake. I need an ending as loud as my life has been here. The leaving begins, and I feel nostalgic for the moments as I’m right in the middle of them. It’s a Wednesday and I’m taking shots in front of the brick fireplace. We keep trying to leave, but it’s always one more song; one more song and then we’ll leave for the bar. We’ll leave and then the leaving is closer still. We’re pregaming until 11 PM because it feels safe to be with friends and good music while life waits for you on the other side of the door.
For now, we’re untouchable. For now I’m finding freedom in the blank space that follows the question: What’s next? To say goodbye again feels heavy, but it feels free. Like I can love a place with every inch of me, it can love me back, and I can still let it go. I can still wander on.