A Retrospective Goodbye

And so it is time for goodbye. This one is going to be rather personal.

“You get a strange feeling when you leave a place, like you’ll not only miss the people you love, but you miss the person you are at this time and place because you’ll never be this way ever again.” — Azar Narasi.

Over the past nine months, I have had to say goodbye to people a good bit. Often multiple times. I have said goodbye to my family, my parents, the cats, friends, and, most difficultly, my partner, B. I have felt at times, that my life is a series of trips to the airport. In those moments, I have sometimes wished against the goodbyes.

I have wished to stay. At times, I have hated leaving. I have.

I cried on every transatlantic flight between the UK and US, US and UK. And, I am not a crier. I used to be able to say that with much more certainty. After this year, I don’t so much know.

Most often these cries have occurred silently, right before take off, when I send a last text, or mid-flight, again silently, during a movie — once it was Ratatouille. I’m not proud of that.

So, before being a goodbye, this is a ‘thank you’ to all those seat-mates who ignored my sniffles and attempts to hide cheek wipes. This is, in part, for you.

Anyway, I have had plenty of goodbyes to people. My cousin Laura came by my parents house on a morning that I had just taken B to the airport, marking impending months of FaceTiming and time differences. I sort of broke down on her, as she was picking out plate setting for a bridal luncheon. She later shared some of the wisest words that I have met this year:

“Long-distance has shown me that we really are made for relationships and to be connected to people. When there is a distance in a relationship, it does not feel right.”

That is a great truth, of which I feel I now have a better appreciation.

We are meant for incredible connection.

However, connections come in different forms, and sometimes we connect to people and sometimes to places. So, this is a roundabout way of getting to the point. It is time to say goodbye to a place. It’s time to say goodbye to Cambridge. (Just like England did to the EU. Zing!)

Goodbye to 83 Mawson Road. Good bye to my house with the blue door, to my room, number five. To my springy twin bed with the white, pilled sheets. Goodbye to the desk where I have more that once set down my head in tiredness or loneliness. Where I booked tickets and apartments for B and my first big adventure in the world together. Bye to the desk where I have written thousands of words, FaceTimed my people, watched hours of Netflix, and eaten so many dinners.

Goodbye to my bedroom door. Damn it, I really thought I wouldn’t need you for handstands anymore by the time I left. Still, thank you for your unwavering support.

Goodbye to our gross kitchen.

Goodbye to the orange cat with the stub tail that lives one street over that often climbs on top of the wall of the house garden, and who is always eager for a scratch. Thanks for not saying I’m crazy when I talk to you. Everyone likes you best. You’re the best cat on the street, you really are.

Goodbye to Espresso Library. Goodbye to Alister, the barista, who mysteriously disappear in between second and third term. Wherever you are, you have impressive hair, goodbye. Also, goodbye to all those who worked there, who never commented about me always coming directly from yoga, sweaty. God bless you.

Goodbye to the yoga studio that gave me sanity, friends, and also, quite possibly, a staph infection. But I don’t even blame you for that. Because I needed a place that felt like a community, also a place that challenged me, where I could sweat and feel physically tired and worked in a way to match my brain.

Goodbye to the doctor’s office where I went when I had staph. Toodles.

Goodbye to the small grocery on Mill Road with the big watchdog hidden behind the counter with the nice man who asked if I had fallen off a bike when I had a facial staph infection. I had not.

Goodbye to Fitzbillies, the best fruit scone in Cambridge, with which I celebrated after handing in each of my papers to my department.

Goodbye to Hughes Hall, my college, where I felt most attached to the printer. And the fat cat.

Goodbye to Kings Parade. Every time that I walked down you, street, I tripped or almost ran into someone or got run over by a bike. That is because I could not keep my eyes off or your steeples and spires, your gates and stone, your walls and windows. Every time that I ran down your length, I thought to myself, “Do not forget this.”

Goodbye to the River Cam. I think you amaze us all. Tourists and students climb into boats to punt under the bridges, to see the colleges from their backsides. In the winter we are covered with blankets, in the summer we recline with bare shoulders.

Goodbye to the bridges. I feel compelled to take pictures every time that I walk across them. I have to remind myself that I have already done so. That I will delete them later. This is not convincing. I snap away.

Goodbye to The Pint Shop, when B and I went and sat and drank pints instead of having dinner and ran through the cold dark night home.

This is an abbreviated list of possible goodbyes. Alas, we must move on. And no one likes a sap.

This year was not a study-abroad year. I did not jet off to Morocco on the weekend. (Although, that would have been amazing.) I spent way more time in the library that in Morocco. One hundred percent more time.

It was also insanely cool at times: dressing up in Harry Potter-esque gowns for formal dinners. Insanely nerdy at times: going to lectures on Conspiracy Theory and space.

It was not without frustration and loneliness. Both of which I felt the night that I lost my laptop in second term. I was separated from my mac for approximately 15 hours. It was horrible. I had left it in a classroom, as I walked out chatting with classmates. Self-torture, we call this. (I just inadvertently but an extra ‘u’ in tourture. So it’s time for me to go back to America where colour is just color, and a favour is simply a favor.)

The bright side of that experience is that it resulted in the good habits of frequent bag-checks and saving things to ‘the cloud.’

Basically, I suppose that I am trying to present a picture of contrasts, because that is what is real. I was happier in Cam when it is was sunny, when I did not pull my hood over my head against the rain.

I was sad to leave the picturesque place where I had the luxury of thinking big thoughts and walking from cafe to yoga. But I so craved my people at home. I have missed them.

It would be easy to say that I was so sad to leave, that it was been an amazing year. These are both true statements, but they are partial stories. They are the stories that I will tell acquaintances. They are the stories that I will likely begin to believe in fuller and fuller ways as time wedges itself between now and future-me.

However, I think the contrast creates the uniqueness of this time. I do not want to forget the cold walks and times I cursed the clouds. I do not want to forget the challenges. The mess-ups. The night I lost my computer. I want to remember that right alongside the endorphin-fueled euphoria following a long run through castles and countryside.

So if I say that I loved it, know that at times I did not.

And that’s the honest truth.

But also know that I feel incredibly privileged to have had a particular set of lows to define some previously unknown heights.

Now, a few weeks back into living in the US, editing this writing that I began back in Cambridge, I again think about connection. When it feels like so many instances in the news show terrible severances and exclusion, perhaps this is a crucial thing to remember:

We are meant for relationships with people and connection. We must have loneliness and lows, but we are meant for assimilation and joy.

Hello, joy.

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