Saying Goodbye Makes Us Brave

I often find myself navigating the space between being upfront and oversharing, but with matters of the heart, one can never be honest enough. This experience is mine, but it’s also the experience of every other person who enters a relationship with an expiration date stamped boldly across it. In honor of this, I will be totally honest about two things: one, my overwhelming feeling of sadness at the end of my first real relationship; and two, my overwhelming love of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. I hope you like honesty and Julia Roberts.

I started a relationship with someone I knew would be moving away. I broke it off once out of fear, though I cited other reasons at the time. I decided to go back when I realized it might be something worth the consequences. It was. Is. Now that the crummy part is here, everyone says “but you knew it was coming.” I even found myself using it as a preface before unloading my emotion onto friends and family. And I get it, I do. We knew. But that kind of doesn’t change anything.

We apply to our dream schools, move to be near them, choose our majors, and invest tens of thousands of dollars knowing that it will all end in four years. We are applauded. We live and learn. At the end, we uproot ourselves again and say goodbye to new old friends, the ones who kept us company when our high school pals drifted away. We adopt pets — old and young, canine, feline or otherwise — knowing we’ll outlive them. We revel in 10 or 20 years of snuggling and playing chase and we love them until they pass away. It still hurts when they do.

Yes, we knew it was coming. That doesn’t make us foolish for trying, for loving. It doesn’t make us melodramatic for expressing real grief. Stupidity and bravery often go hand in hand and only in hindsight does one become the obvious answer, and it usually depends on the result. From the outside right now, my results look like crying my way through an entire roll of Charmin. Though it’s hard to stomach much when I’m truly upset, give it a week and my results will also look like projecting my feelings onto cheese fries and then devouring them, hoping the rest of the situation disappears as quickly. Right now, I may look stupid. But I know better.

We ventured into a finite period of time where the only certainties were pain and his moving date. Stupid, or brave? We met families and friends and held no secrets for ourselves because we would have done these things anyway. We didn’t hold back our feelings or shy from being public. I’m divulging the inner workings of my sorrow to the world. Stupid, or brave?

As the almighty Elizabeth Gilbert writes, “Faith is walking face-first and full-speed into the dark. If we truly knew all the answers in advance as to the meaning of life and the nature of God and the destiny of our souls, our belief would not be a leap of faith and it would not be a courageous act of humanity; it would just be…a prudent insurance policy.”

If we didn’t do anything we knew would end, what would we do? No more college, pets, travel, good meals. Temporariness is part of the human condition–that’s what my relationship taught me. I’ve raged against it my whole life but this time I really learned that lesson. Change and endings are hard, but they do not invalidate the experiences preceding them. They make them valuable and us grateful. To back away from an opportunity out of fear? Stupid. What we did was brave, and now we’re wading through the rest.

As for me, I’m following Richard from Texas’s advice: “So miss him. Send him love and light every time you think about him. Then drop it.” TC mark

featured image – Eat, Pray, Love

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