Monday, September 15, 2008

Do you ever truly say goodbye?

In Minnesota I saw some old friends. Some I hadn't seen in a few months, others, years.

I saw friends I didn't think I'd ever see again. I saw friends that I've missed dearly. I saw the life I left behind when I moved. I saw the life I would have had if I had done things differently. I saw a life I walked away from. I saw a life that walked away from me.

I often view life like this.

Traveling always makes me reflective. I don't think this is a unique trait. Watching out the window of a moving car or plane: buildings, fences, animals, barns, cars, planes, trees, people, lives. They all pass by. It's only natural we might become reflective on ourselves. This feeling is of course only magnified if you are in fact going back to touch your past. Your physically moving through space and time, moving to a place in history that is no longer there. You're in the same place - same buildings, same trees, same roads - but that's about it. Little else is the same.

I thought a lot about what home means. When I got off the plane in Minnesota, I didn't feel like I was home, but I felt like maybe I belonged there. As the week went on, the feeling started to fade. Admittedly, this is probably because I was imposing on Will and sleeping on his floor the entire time. It's remarkably hard to feel like you're home when you're sleeping on someone's floor and living out of a suitcase. Or sleeping on a couch and living out of boxes stacked behind it.

Coming back from the trip, I felt like I was going to the place where I lived, but I never once felt like I was going home. I suppose home is still in Moorhead. I suspect it will be for quite awhile. At least, until I find a more permanent place to live and a family of my own. Then maybe my concept of what's home will change. I hope it does.

You've got to go somewhere.

More than anything on this trip I thought about what saying goodbye means. When I left Moorhead 7 months ago I said goodbye to Doug and Lee and Marvia and Jared and my parents and many others. But it wasn't really a goodbye in any final sense. It was a "see you later" goodbye. I'm not sure that counts. I don't think it does.

I try to be careful with my words. Most often I choose the words I do for a reason. I've often prided myself on verbosity and my vernacular; Minnesota is known for quality linguistics. This also ties into what I feel is a matter of intelligence and ability to express oneself. If you think in pre-set phrases, in cliches, you can never explain what you wish to say with direct clarity. Of course any philosophy major would be quick to point out that language itself is an imperfect form of communication and that itself is a limitation to expression.

Where does it lead?

This is obvious in saying something as ubiquitous as "I love you." What exactly do I mean? Am I in love with you? Do I love you like a son or daughter? A mother or father? A spouse or lover? A grandparent, uncle or aunt? How about as a friend? A casual acquaintence that I say I love simply because I care about in a vague sense? I could go on. Language is imperfect; it should not be acceptable to have an imperfect ability to speak with an already imperfect concept. I believe this is partially why our actions and our behavior is such a powerful form of communication; while it is still imperfect since intent and ambition - the why of our behavior - is the most important aspect and acidicly the hardest to know.

What I'm getting at is that I do not often simply say "goodbye." I might say "see you later" or "farewell" or even "bye" in passing. In our society there are no shortages of ways to express well-wishes towards anothers departure. "Goodbye" is one I don't use for a very fitting reason: there's a finality - a fatality, if you will - to it. Talk to you later, bon voyage, see ya, farewell, etc. all wish another well while at the same time being finite. Goodbye isn't. Goodbye carries with it a more powerful essence. It is the herald of the end. It means something is actually ending.


Last week, I said goodbye to someone. I think largely that's what last week was for me: a goodbye. The person didn't die and my relationship with them didn't end...but it changed. Part of our relationship ended and it was something that I think had to be done in person. I wasn't expecting it. I didn't know that's why I was going to Minnesota. I didn't know what to think. I was saddened. It wasn't sudden; it was a very long time coming. It's only now that I faced it, literally. And I said goodbye.

On the trip home, sitting the Denver airport waiting for my flight to connect, I started to smile. I had said goodbye.

I said goodbye.

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