“I can’t say hello to you and risk another goodbye.”
Taylor Swift wrote that. I wish I had.
I flew back to Sydney last weekend after 2.5 weeks in New Zealand. It was a holiday full of connection, closure and rejuvenation. There were moments of peace that lifted me and moments of conflict that challenged me. Inevitably, it was a holiday full of goodbyes. Every time I return the farewells are harder. There’s more lost ground to cover and I feel the distance acutely. But I also feel closer to being me – the me that I was supposed to be all along. These things are not mutually exclusive, of course. It’s when I align my feet with old footprints that I can see how much distance I’ve covered. This has nothing to do with geography.
We’re not very good at goodbyes, as a species.
We fear there might not be another hello. We don’t like to let go of what we have, even if it’s shit, because we’re attuned to the familiar. We recoil from new hellos because we suspect they will not be as good as the good we thought we had. We are scared of the spaces in between.
Saying goodbye creates space for new hellos. This is an act of faith, trusting that the Universe will deliver us something better. We think we know what better looks like. Nearly always, we are wrong. The Universe has a better imagination than any of us. We are slow to trust.
When I was a teenager there was a TV ad for a travel agency with a tagline that went something like this: “Holidays restore what everyday life steals from you.” Instead of feeling inspired, this ad made me feel vaguely depressed. Who on earth hates their life that much, I wondered, that the only good they can imagine is escaping it? If you think your job is taking from you more than what you’re getting (in terms of reward, satisfaction and challenge), you’re probably in the wrong job. Or perhaps you need a project to bring meaning to your evenings and weekends. If the goodbye you said to your summer self when you trudged into the office on the first working day of 2016 made you feel a sharp sense of loss, maybe you need to strive for a better hello. What would *that* look like? Your imagination might not be as good as the Universe’s, but you have magic in your fingertips and a wistful heart. You CAN conjure up something, anything, that doesn’t equate to a life that you 92 per cent hate.
Perhaps some people believe that their happiness only happens for four weeks of the year – i.e. during their annual leave – and that the remaining 92 per cent (excluding long weekends) are a murky wasteland of monotony and futility. Sure, I’d rather be doing crosswords in the hammock right now, as I was last week, a G&T within reach, than I would hunched in front of a computer with printer deadlines looming and only a mildly bitter green tea on hand, as I am right now. But our holiday selves are the evening gowns we borrow, not the pyjamas we settle in. We don’t grow and expand when our lives are on pause – the good stuff, the gritty and the pretty, happens when we hit play. Holidays are still very important, however.
If your everyday is not all you hoped it would be, what could you do to change that? And if you are not able to change it, are you willing to change the way you think about it? Letting go of what is no longer serving you is a brave and important goodbye.
The more we let go, the more room we have to grow and gain. Get ready to say hello from the other side.