Throughout my life I have been forced to say a lot of goodbyes. Some of those goodbyes were imposed on me by others (like the various times throughout my childhood when we moved) and some of those goodbyes were by choice. The end of various youth events when I would have to say goodbye to friends both new and old. The end of high school as I prepared to go to college out of state. The end of a semester in London when I had to say goodbye to the classmates I had befriended over our short semester there. Graduating from college and moving on to “bigger and better” things. Whether or not those goodbyes were by choice, it was always important to ensure some kind of closure. When we moved from Illinois to Wyoming my friends threw me a goodbye party. I still have the NYKOTB book that those friends gave me, although it is buried in some box in the attic. When we moved from Wyoming, a small group of my friends surprised me with a day trip up to the mountains where we had a picnic. When I left various youth events throughout high school and college, we would have some kind of closing service and then sign books with heartfelt messages to each other promising to “stay in touch.” And I will never forget that last girls night full of facials and wine right before we all left London to head back to the States.
Some people see closure as the act of closing all doors and moving on without looking back. I don’t. I see closure as the act of ending one era before beginning a new one. It doesn’t mean you forget the era that you just ended. It doesn’t mean that you forget the people who were a part of that ended era. It definitely doesn’t mean that you never speak to those people again and completely cut them out of your life. It just means that you have successfully executed a clean break that allows you to move forward as opposed to remaining rooted in the past. Life is a series of changes and full of hellos and goodbyes. But in order to stay mentally and emotionally healthy, one must actually say goodbye.
Finding closure in our last move was difficult, at best. I was teaching a couple classes I felt unprepared to teach making me uncomfortable in my classroom two periods a day. I was a new mom and I was trying to figure out the balance between mommyhood and work. I had dreams of what my last show as a theatre director was going to be and was forced to consider other options. Relationships with students who I had been close to became strained, at best. And on top of all of that I was dealing with the emotional stress of moving compounded by realities such as a house that wouldn’t sell and lack of professional direction for me. And there was never a “peace, we’re out” type of departure. I tried to clean out my room but it got cleaned out for me and I just moved the boxes that had been placed in the hallway. Over the last five years, we have found a hodge podge of items that should have never left with us. We didn’t pack up a moving truck and move everything in one fell swoop. Instead, we made multiple trips driving over 200 miles round trip to pick up a couple more items from our yet unsold house and taking those items to our new house, which was in various stages of repair. There was never a formal “goodbye” to our friends. While there was never the belief that we would never see them again (in fact, we have seen many of those friends several times in the years since we left) for awhile it didn’t really feel like we had left. It was almost as if we were taking several mini-vacations away.
This time it feels like we are getting healthy closure. I had “last” lunches with colleagues and friends as the school year came to a close. My classroom is empty and I did all the sorting, cleaning, tossing, and packing myself. My students boosted my ego with many notes (and a couple gifts) letting me know how much I would be missed. Our house is under contract and God willing will belong to another couple in another month. This time it feels like the loose ends will be tied. When the moving truck pulls up and empties our house, nothing will be left behind. We will take our memories and our friendships with us and thanks to the magic of social media, we will be able to keep in touch. While it is never the same as seeing people in person, we can still communicate and share with each other our new adventures.
Closure is important, no matter the form that closure takes. It keeps us emotionally and mentally healthy and allows us to move on to the next stage of our lives. Many of the steps that we are currently taking to get closure with this move are helping me to finally find closure with the last. We have resigned ourselves to seeing our old house as an “investment” that will someday pay off as opposed to our old home. I am trying to arrange times to visit friends in both locations so that I can actually say “goodbye.” And I am looking forward to what the future holds for our family. Five years ago I moved kicking and screaming like a petulant child. I knew that I wasn’t at my best as a wife and a mother, and it felt like I had reverted back 20 years. While it wasn’t fair to my family (and ultimately held me back from a smooth transition), that is where I was at the time. But I don’t have any regrets about moving. We were where we needed to be. I couldn’t see it then, but it was the right place at the right time. Now it is time to let go, leap, and let God lead our next steps.
And let’s be honest; that is easier said than done.
Sarah is a high school English teacher, yearbook adviser, wife to an amazingly supportive husband, and mom to two quickly growing kiddos. When she’s not working to balance life as a working mom, she uses this space to write about the wonderful complexities of life as a wife, mother, and teacher, as well as her family’s camping adventures whenever they can get out of town.
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