Bad and Goodbyes

Category: Third Culture Kids

SayingGoodbyeTCKI love my life, but if I could change one thing, I would do away with the “goodbye” part of it. Saying goodbye takes time, thought and so much emotional energy. It has everything to do with “temporary” and I kind of hate it. Peculiar, isn’t it, that one of the constants of a TCK’s life is saying “goodbye”?

There is a huge part of me that just wants to slip away and get on with life and not deal with all the goodbye drama. Part of my brain says it is easier that way. The other part of my brain says, “Cami, you have done that before and it didn’t turn out well.” Yeah, the TCK who goes everywhere with Libby does not have her “goodbye” act together. *sigh*

When digging deeper, I realize that I have conjured up several coping mechanisms, reasons and excuses for avoiding the “goodbye” scene. I’m sure there are more, but here are my own top three:

1. Sometimes the people left behind feel they are a whole lot closer to me than I am to them.

I feel this is really a legitimate reason for not making a big deal of the farewell. Deep down I know they are more into our friendship than I am, so it becomes a really delicate dance. This is the dilemma: If I make too big a deal of leaving they think I am their “BFF”. But, if I don’t do the “goodbye thing”, they think I am a jerk and I was just using them for the time I knew them (which I had no intention of doing). So what do I do? 

Actually I try my best to make them feel genuinely appreciated without compromising my own sense of integrity about how I feel about them. I try very hard not to make any false promises, especially when it comes to staying in touch. I mean, I can barely stay connected with my closest friends. I actually say that...not exactly that way of course...but I do point them to FB and tell them that’s the best way to find out what is happening in my life.  When I leave, I say goodbye warmly, tell them how much I have appreciated the friendship and give a hug. I try very hard not to let tears come as that would communicate deeper stuff to them than what those tears actually mean.

2. Sometimes I avoid, albeit only temporarily, the emotionally difficult situation for me.

When I deeply care for a friend, it just kills me to leave. It tears away at my very soul. So, I do everything I can to hold it together when I say goodbye. I tend to stay away saying:  “There are so many details to finish up before I go” or “I will try my best to get with you before I me, and we will set up a time.” But I never make the time. I put it off until there is no time left and I intentionally leave without ever having to make an emotional fool of myself. I lie to myself and say it will hurt less if I go without saying “goodbye”.

When I do that, I know I have betrayed the friend I have left behind, and I have betrayed myself. I feel guilty and embarrassed when I talk to or see them again. I begin to hate myself for cheating both of us of real closure, hurting our friendship, for not expressing my love to my friend...and for making the pain of leaving so much worse in the long-run. I’ve come to realize that skipping the goodbye process actually makes me feel so much more pain, or even worse, I bury my sadness to the point where I don’t think I feel anything at all. What a mess. I try very hard to let myself feel my goodbye so I can honor the friend I am leaving. I cut myself open and let them see how much they mean to me and tell them how grateful I am for their friendship. I try very hard to be realistic about future expectations, which sometimes means I tell them they are on my very short list of people I do not want to lose...ever! At the same time I tell them how hard it is for me to stay in touch, not because I don’t want to, but because I learned some very bad habits when I was younger of just going away, never expecting to ever see or connect again. I ask them to hold me accountable because I want them in my life forever.

3. And then, sometimes I am tempted to leave without the proper goodbye when I just want to get away from someone.

Um..I can’t believe I am putting this in writing and ON THE INTERNET....but’s Libby’s blog, not mine, and she told me to be honest. :-) Leaving this way usually means there is some difficult issue I need to work through with someone before I go and I don’t want to do it. Sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes it isn’t - regardless - fleeing the situation seems to be the easiest way to move on. BUT IT’S NOT! Oh yeah, it may be easier in the moment, but in the long-run it takes a toll on my psyche, my spirit and my health. On the surface I am relieved that I am leaving and I don’t have to confront the issue. It is sort of the “out of sight - out of mind” approach to living, but deep down I know it is still there, and I know I will either hear about them or I will see them again somehow, somewhere.

So now, I make myself approach the problem or person and I do my best to take care of unfinished business so I can live better. After all, studies show that people who hold fewer grudges and forgive more have less stress, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression and anxiety, fewer symptoms of chronic pain, and a lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse (excluding Diet Dr. Pepper addiction of course, ehem Libby!!!) The result is that my relationships are healthier, I feel better about myself, and have a peaceful night’s sleep....and not surprisingly, my relationship with God improves. It really does make sense to get the messy stuff taken care of and leave right if for no other reason than just to live better.

Goodbyes are never simple and rarely smooth sailing. There is no way around it. But I can, with some work and honestly, say goodbye with integrity and vulnerability, knowing that in the end I did it right.

TCKs, I'm super curious...what are some of the healthy and unhealthy ways you’ve dealt with saying goodbye?
What piece of advice would you offer other TCKs who are about to say goodbye?

Adios, bye, shalom, au revoir, ciao, salaam, zai jian and tschüss for now,



Camilla is a TCK who gets to travel with Libby Stephens. Missed her intro? Meet Cami!

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