“If you’re brave enough to say goodbye, life will reward you with a new hello.” ~Paulo Coelho
When I was born, the nurse lifted me from the bed, placed me on a cold metal operating table, and prepped my umbilical cord to be severed. As my parents put it, I “screamed bloody murder” when she attended to me, then grabbed ahold of the index finger of her latex glove and pulled it clean off.
“You just wouldn’t let go,” my dad recalls, chuckling.
That often-told family tale has risen to consciousness many times during the last few months, especially when I’ve found myself overwhelmed, fearful, and grief-stricken at the task of saying goodbye.
Goodbye to my first love, each of my beloved college friends, my wonderful university and creative writing program, to the Pacific Northwest, and more importantly to a time of my life that had a big role in bearing me into the woman I am today.
Goodbye, because I picked up and moved to Berkeley, CA to explore, to live, to find new joy. As the move became more real, every “so long” brought with it the coldness of surgical steel at my back, a wet cry, an unwavering grip on those places and people I love.
The thing about letting go is that it’s unnatural to most and must be learned with great patience and persistence.
Perhaps it’s difficult because we need attachment to survive—babies need their mothers and the rest of the “village” to thrive physically and emotionally, to adjust to life beyond the womb.
But letting go is worth learning, because it means risk, and with risk comes growth.
I crave growth. I crave new experience. I crave adventure. And as much as I loved Bellingham, it wasn’t supplying me with the tools to be happy.
I want to be a well-known writer, I want to see the world, I want to learn new stories and sing songs with strangers. I just couldn’t do that in a small, bayside city of people I know well. But the inevitability (even predictability) of this goodbye couldn’t make it any easier.
Intentionally letting go is not any less excruciating than doing so subconsciously, and I would be remiss if I told you so. It requires we savor not only sweet beginnings, but also bitter endings. It requires we face fear and grief in the face, rather than burying them deep.
The day I left Bellingham, I sat in the middle of the floor of my empty apartment bawling. Whereas we are taught to stay strong, to hold tears in, to look forward with no impulse to go back, I allowed myself a moment to be achingly present in the memories and attachment I have to that place.
I remembered drinking wine on floor with my roommates until the wee hours; writing story after story on my bedroom carpet; lying in bed and talking most the night with the first boy I’ve ever really loved.
Okay, so maybe I’m a sap. Or perhaps even a masochist. But I’ve found that if you give fear and grief the time of day, gratefulness and joy greet you on the other side.
Endings just want to be acknowledged, just want you to pause and remember how beautiful life can be. In that way, how you deal with endings can become a litmus test for how mindfully you are living.
So, I challenge you to see change not with dread, but as a chance to remember how beautiful your life has been, is, and will continue to be. And whenever you say “so long,” keep an eye out for that new hello. It will come.
I know it’s true as I sit in a sunny Berkeley coffee shop writing, musing on the courage it took to get me here and watching a little boy in denim overalls holding tight to the hand of his “Papa!” To all this new adventure, joy and love, I say hello, hello, hello.
Photo by nevena kukoljac
About Alexa Peters
Alexa Peters graduated with honors and a BA in Creative Writing from Western Washington University. She’s contributed to Amy Poehler’s Smart Girls At the Party, Middle Women, Elohi Gadugi Journal, and What’s Up! Music Magazine. When she isn't writing, Alexa plays Thelonious Monk, snuggles dogs and eats tiramisu as often as possible. To read more, visit her blog: itsallwritebyme.wordpress.com.