"I know a girl whose parents said that she could either have her open house or take $3000 instead."
I sat there, stunned. I felt a knot in my stomach, a feeling of unease as I chewed on the sandwich I was eating at a friend's open house.
I couldn't bear to think of giving up my own open house day--not for anything in the world. It was one of the greatest celebrations of my life, and not because I was leaving home. It was the goodbye itself and seeing all the people that have impacted my life that made it such a memorable, important party.
I dragged out my graduation "goodbyes" in any and every way possible. I wrote letters to my closest teachers, teammates, coaches, babysitters, friends, and, at the end, my parents. It was my sense of closure, the only way I felt I could embark on my new college life feeling fulfilled.
My parents didn't force me to write letters; in fact, they didn't ever mention the idea. I wanted a final connection, a final expression explaining how much these people in my life had meant to me and how I'd carry on the wisdom they'd taught me into the next phase of my life.
Your Own Goodbye
That being said, everyone has their own ways and feelings associated with goodbye. Personally, I felt a mixture of excitement (I was bored of high school and ready for a new life in college) and fear (leaving my parents, living on my own in a dorm the size of a closet). Some have more excitement than fear and vice versa. I dealt with those emotions by writing letters.
Over the years, I've recognized other ways people have said goodbye and how some goodbyes are harder than others between friends and family. Good news for you, I've broken down the different "goodbyes" into a few lovely categories, thanks to the examples I've witnessed throughout my life:
The "Hallelujah!" Goodbye
This goodbye is exemplified by not only the reaction of my younger sister, but perhaps my mom, too, when my sister graduated. Yes, my sister was that "rebellious" child you always hear about (or experience first-hand). As much as we loved her, we all knew it was time for her to scoot out of the house for a bigger, badder world. Goodness knows she tried to prove she was meant for it.
Being the rebellious daughter she was, my sister had a way of getting on my mom's nerves, and my mom had had enough "babysitting" her. New York was my sister's next destination, and ready for it, she was!
At least, that's how my sister acted.
It wasn't until a few days before she left for New York that the first tears were shed and the fear crept in. I guess that showed me that even the most exciting goodbyes still have a feeling of fear attached, too...
"Farewell to Friends" Goodbye
This, I felt, was exemplified by no one other than my high school friends. The fact that I had grown distant from my friends while that group grew closer together without me probably explained why I didn't feel too sad leaving them. But they were sad leaving each other, and they tried to spend every summer day with each other before college began again.
Part of me wishes I had spent more time with them, but I was ready and excited to make new friends in college; luckily, these friends still stayed close, but they made other friends as well. Life goes on and new people enter our lives. Fortunately my goodbyes weren't too tough in this area, because we had grown apart, but I'm sure for others it is one of the toughest farewells.
"Mama/Daddy's Boy/Girl" Goodbye
There was a girl at my college who dealt with the difficulty of saying goodbye to her parents, even long after leaving home. She was so desperate to talk to her parents that she called them multiple times a day while in college.
The separation I felt from my parents upon going to college wasn't that bad, and I was only a twenty-minute drive away from home anyway. But, I still had a few times when I broke down. After two weeks in the dorm my freshman year, I called my dad in tears and drove home for the weekend. Nothing major happened, but the stress of school got to me, and I just needed to see my parents again. These "breakdowns" happened fewer and further apart as the year went on.
Now it's to the point where I try to see my parents as infrequently as possible. I don't know if that comes out of being too busy, or that I just don't feel the need to see them as much anymore.
The pace in which one says goodbye to their parents will be different for everyone, so we must keep in mind that time and adjustment varies.
When Those You Love Are Leaving You
Goodbyes can be difficult for everyone involved; I know that from my own graduation goodbye, as well as saying goodbye to those who graduated before and after me.
The first time I felt this pang of loss was when my good friend Emily graduated high school. I was only a sophomore and I had already gained many friends--all of whom would be graduating. I ended up staying at Emily's open house longer than anyone who came, trying desperately to hold onto the last few hours that we'd be seeing each other before she moved across town to college. The girl I ran with at cross country and track practice each day would suddenly be missing.
And then you get other friends to fill in those gaps. Enter, the underclassmen that came in afterward. This past weekend, I realized that eventually you have to say goodbye to them too, which brings me to the open house I was at when my friend Kristi mentioned the dilemma the girl had between money and an open house.
That's when it hit me how important these open houses, these final goodbyes were. I realized that farewells at open houses happen nearly every spring, whether you're the one leaving or saying goodbye to those graduating before or after you.
This party was the last of what may be our final round of open houses. It was the last group of friends I knew from high school--the freshmen when Kristi and I were seniors.
The Final Step
No matter your method of saying goodbye, no matter how you feel, in the end, there is a sense of loss mixed with excitement upon embarking on a new life. I was just glad I ended on a positive, uplifting note. What may have helped my goodbyes was the fact that I made sure to end them exactly the way I felt was best--with a heartfelt message, a letter to remind myself what each friend or family member did in my life to make me into the person I am today. The letters helped me to realize that I was taking a small piece of everyone I knew, and loved, with me into the bigger world. And the open house? A way to see those people again before I began the next chapter of my life.
I wouldn't trade that for anything.