Transition is a defining feature of my life stage. The 20s are a time of job changes, marriage, starting families and moving to new cities and towns. With so many changes, life becomes a series of bittersweet moments. For the first time, many of my peers and I are experiencing true senses of accomplishment as we become adults responsible for our own decisions, but many of us are also saying goodbye to things we have once loved, known and shared a strong sense of familiarity.
My previous column discussed what it meant to be a “packrat,” a desire to save everything and a fear of throwing things away. It’s a habit attached to fear of loss, specifically memories.
For people like me who experience this fear, I have to remind myself continually that life is always changing. I can never truly relive those moments that I hold and cherish; each day is different and unique because of new environments and circumstances.
In the past couple of months, after accepting the idea of my changing environment, I noticed myself approaching the idea of goodbye with a sense of fatalism. Currently I am in the middle of a job transition. While overjoyed with my new career, for which I have studied and worked hard, I am leaving three years of achieved comfort, knowledge, friendship and love.
Contemplating this huge change, I became depressed over saying goodbye. How could I even comprehend closure to such a huge part of my life? It is a heavy door closing on such a definite ending. In processing the emotional struggle of leaving, I realized that I have known people who did not believe in goodbyes. I always held such a sense of disdain for them. They were the college friends who left early for summer break, a fact discovered when I would stop by to find their empty rooms. They were the people you don’t see as friends, but who somehow become a part of your daily life — the woman who works at the coffee shop or the employee at your favorite store, one day suddenly gone.
Some of us try to gain a sense of closure from these abandoned goodbyes by calling the friend or inquiring about that employee, but the results never quite satisfy. Perhaps these people have the right idea. In this ever-changing world, should we let goodbyes carry such significance? I have realized that, as someone who experiences fear of loss, goodbyes make life more difficult. They make it harder to understand and accept change. Goodbyes announce that something has ended when it has merely changed.
Many people believe in the importance of closure, but do we gain closure by accepting change, or does it always have to come with a sense of ending? As I go about my days, I will open my view to life changes, instead of life stages, to combat my fear and tendency to hold on to the past.
Contact Corin Harpe at firstname.lastname@example.org.