When It’s Time To Go

On a recent, perfect Sunday, I was sitting on a dock on the Chesapeake Bay, feet dangling in the water, when I heard this phrase despondently tumble out of a little kid’s mouth. In a quick flash of nostalgia, I was swept back to being that little kid at a family/friend’s gathering on a summer’s day or night, and having to hear those four words. Whether directly from Mom or Dad or sent by a messenger in the form of my brother, the phrase always held a little tinge of sadness, signaling the close of a great time. Of course there was always the standard backlash. “But no one else is leaving,” or, “I’m not even tired,” and my personal favorite “but we haven’t even had dessert yet!” The nerve of adults, sometimes.

See, because when you’re a kid, there is always something worth staying for — staying up for, staying out for. Leaving just doesn’t fit into the equation. At one young point in our lives, everything and everyone that we already have is all we could ever need.

I know that, personally, I never wanted to go, never wanted to grow up, never wanted to go to sleep. Granted, I was handed a wonderfully magical childhood. What is just as relevant though, is that I have always had a painfully acute sense of awareness that time is passing — that all of this is passing and one day it will be time to go. That no matter how enthralled in fascination or absorbed in a moment I am, the creeping absurdity of the world’s transient nature will still follow me everywhere. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what this is and whether or not everyone shares it in the same way. I like to think of it as nostalgia for the present, the rare instances when we are the drivers of our memory rather than the passengers. The moments when we freeze in place and photo-stitch all of our immediate surroundings and senses into one, large panoramic vision of our existence. The collected snapshots of our souls, instantaneously antiqued.

It is during both extremes, the most poignant milestones in life and the subtle afternoons on the Chesapeake, that we antique ourselves, allowing those precious, brief moments of clarity to glide inside. Occasionally held within these brief moments is also the realization that it’s time to go. Sometimes the realization is a loud, crashing blow to the heart and sometimes it’s more of a tap on the shoulder, a gentle awakening.

We graduate from high school with eyes wide open for the future. Then, we graduate from college, teary-eyed and scared sh-tless of that same future. We move from our childhood homes and childhood cities. We move back and then away and then back again. We lose touch with friends we thought we never, ever would. Maybe we’ll reconnect with some. Maybe we won’t. We change fashions and trade jobs and slip into new hobbies. We break up and we divorce and we lose so many of the very, very important keepsakes that we’ve carried with us and treasured for so long. We watch the people that we love die.

We go and we let go and, sometimes, we are let go of.

Occasionally, we remain relatively rational about it all — the going, the leaving. Our bottom voice might have been making noise about it for a little while, and so our top voice finally speaks up. More often than not though, we are left feeling desolate, struck by the leftover remnants of transiency. We beg our parents, or someone, to stay a bit longer. We shout that we are not yet tired, that there is still something worth staying for. We become aware that a memory can be a very painful thing.

But we will invest in faith or forgetfulness in order to move forward. We will learn to live without the keepsakes that we never thought we could. We will accept that, yes, a memory can be a painful thing, but a dazzling thing — a wonderfully intricate thing, too. It is the most invaluable keepsake we have. So, we unfreeze. We gather our antiqued snap shots and place them one on top of the other, back into the drawers of our mind until the next tap on the shoulder, the next blow to the heart. Before we can help it, the lucidity fades. Everything begins to swirl together, again — chromatic aberration of the memory. And once again, it is time to go. TC mark


image – Yury Prokopenko


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  • m

    perfectly captured something i’ve always opined with myself. you are definitely my favorite writer on this website.

    • http://gravatar.com/kirstenshuying Kirsten Chen

      thank you!!!

  • sub0rbital

    “We let go and,sometimes, we are let go of.”

    So very true.

    • http://chan jackie

      something I’ve recently come to terms with :’

  • http://twitter.com/jesshett jesshett (@jesshett)

    crazy goosebumps! hands down my favorite ever thought catalog article.

    • http://gravatar.com/kirstenshuying Kirsten Chen

      if my eyes could orgasm, they would. I’m so glad you guys enjoy – thank you!

  • http://www.itmakesmestronger.com/2012/06/when-it%e2%80%99s-time-to-go/ Only L<3Ve @ ItMakesMeStronger.com

    […] Thought Catalog » Life Add a comment […]

  • Aj

    That was really lovely dear. Definitely got a little choked up.

  • http://twitter.com/lariverola Rivera (@lariverola)

    jack, you can let go now.

    • J. Shepard


  • http://twistedlamposts.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/when-its-time-to-go-thought-catalog/ When It’s Time To Go | Thought Catalog | 7 Promises.

    […] When It’s Time To Go | Thought Catalog. […]

  • Kato

    WOW!! Sounds like you had a GREAT childhood.

  • Amanda

    Wonderful piece. This captures well the norstalgia felt at life’s crossroads.

  • Mel

    This is absolutely gorgeous.

  • Jackeline

    This is beautiful.

  • Ruby

    Speechless. This is so incredibly moving, you are a brilliant and evocative writer Kristen.

    • http://gravatar.com/kirstenshuying Kirsten Chen

      And you are way too kind. Thanks a bunch, Ruby. :)

  • Ty

    A truly beautiful and thoughtful read. Congratulations Kirsten. Hopefully someday, we can all find a moment we never need to leave.

  • JSG

    Loved this,!

  • ap

    perfect. thank you. this is what i’ve been struggling to put into words for years.

  • kate

    the first part of this reminded me of a quote that I read in high school in some nonfiction book about emo music that has always resonated with me

    “Teenage years are eternally twilight because it’s the first time in life when we realize and understand time–that it passes, that things change, that you and everyone else won’t be this way forever. It is advance nostalgia–the contradictory wish for something more and for nothing else.”

    • http://gravatar.com/kirstenshuying Kirsten Chen

      I like! As a fellow HS emo’er I’ll be interested to read…

  • Jacks

    Wonderful! I have that feel sometimes, when you are enjoying yourself and your company and there is a small part of you that knows its not going to be like that forever. This is truly a great piece, thank you for sharing!

  • Samantha

    Although it’s a bit redundant, I feel that it must be repeated; Perfect. Wonderful. Brilliant. You took my thoughts and you typed them out much better than I ever could have done. This definitely is one of the best thought catalog articles I have ever read.

  • pig

    well done care bear

  • http://hereffervescence.blogspot.com/ iamandanyc

    (just to unnecessarily reinforce the idea)

    amazing amazing amazing

  • A

    You are my favorite writer on Thought Catalog. Thank you for writing such a beautiful and reflective piece. I share many of your same thoughts and sentiments as well.

    Btw, this may sound weird, but I am also half Asian, only half Italian and half Korean. I always feel this weird “bond” with other half Asians (even though I know I don’t personally know you, haha). It’s just a unique cultural experience and I loved reading your piece about your parents that you wrote a few months ago–hit close to home!

    I guess what I am trying to say is keep up the good work and continue being awesome! Looking forward to reading more of your articles!

    • http://gravatar.com/kirstenshuying Kirsten Chen

      Hey there, A. I’m glad we can relate. It’s the Mix Bond! :-)

  • Franz

    Why did it take you so long to start writing here? You’ve certainly become my favorite writer. I realize saying that is not a new comment and makes this comment pale in comparison to the article, but if we can repeat lies until they become truth, can we not repeat truths until they become universal?

    • http://gravatar.com/kirstenshuying Kirsten Chen

      Repetitiveness in comments/quotes like this are quite okay with me, Franz ;) I hope you continue to enjoy my writing.

  • StaceFace

    Holy crap, this brought me to tears. It’s so relevant right now that it’s scary. Thank you for articulating something I’ve always felt.

  • Veronica

    <3 <3 <3 <3
    this is beautiful; I'm saving this. and remarkably relevant to…everyone, probably.

  • digthisnotthat


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