Growing up, I was always taught this and that, whether it affected my schoolwork, life at home, or my own self. These bits of knowledge are usually handed over to you by parents, caring friends, and mentors you meet as you age. But even as my head is whirling with lessons, I was never imbibed with the spirit of waving your hand vigorously as your eyes haze. I was never taught how to say goodbye.
Tomorrow, the final bow is done on stage and I will realize that though I see the eyes of the people who have been with me through the course of my stay, I bow out alone. I walk up the stage alone and go down alone. It was not as daunting when we practiced, maybe because I was so into the conversation I had with my friend. Thinking about it now brought about an emptiness in me. Take this from a person who treasures memories like beings, even if they are mere wisps that can never come to life the same way it happened. You may remember it a thousand times, but it came to life once, and it dies the moment it’s over. I have realized this time and time again, but how come its meaning is something I still cannot resolve?
With the goodbye comes detachment. You have a conversation with a friend, the bell rings, and you have to go to the next class. Even if that person follows you the whole way through, at some point, it does end. And you have to say, “see you later,” even if sometimes, your conversation is left hanging. You are only left with questions you wanted to ask, answers you wanted to have, or the memory of his or her laughter and words in your mind. A goodbye is like the dream you can never forget because you wave when you’re awake. And again, some dreams are not meant to stay on, even if you will it so hard. A thousand coins thrown into the fountain cannot amount to the strength of the dream itself pulling away, even if the shimmering tail of the star you wished upon tightens on it like a rope.
I can still imagine the halls on which I walk, the laughter that rings in my ears after a joke was told, and the promises we all told ourselves to keep. The facades don’t change, but the ghosts do. And I have become one of those spirits. But in time, the spirits have to look for Heaven somehow, and as much as we claim to have “unfinished business,” it’s always left at that. We are never finished, even if time says that it is finally done.
With goodbye comes acceptance. I can honestly say that the school has formed me into someone I can no longer recognize from the one who entered the first time. I claim myself to be someone who still sees the good, but withholds a slight tang of darkness, because no one leaves untainted. We are all touched by the light and by the dark, and it is always a matter of choice whether to stay in the shadows or delight in the sun. I have learned that I have a hard time taking in change, most especially because I am used to patterns. With me, the numbers always make sense, the people always make sense. But also, there are times when people leave without a word’s notice, when they part with you in ways you will never understand, and at times you will feel alone in a crowded space. I have felt that numerous times, and I can never get accustomed to it. How do you tell someone to listen to yourself, when they run from their own selves all the time?
The school has taught me to accept the things I am not capable of changing, the things I have no power over to let it run its course. But I am thankful to the ones who have never left my side, to the ones who came back, and to the ones I have yet to say hello to.
With goodbye comes growth. More often than not, the people in my life have taught me how to mature. That was my biggest nightmare upon turning 20 last year, as I found myself holding back tears knowing that I was at a point where decisions came in and I was stuck. But as the year went by, I realized that a birth number does not determine your maturity level, as I have seen. Growth means having the courage to stand up instead of stoop with the status quo, to face reality head on, and to speak up when you need to. Growth means knowing that you’re still taller than everyone else who will do their absolute best to knock your knees to make you bend. Growth means holding on to your dignity even if people you give your heart to will only wish to see it crushed after a good time of mere play. Growth means realizing all of that, and keeping constant despite temptations to retreat back to what had been, which does not necessarily translate to what could still be.
And lastly, with the goodbye comes hello. I guess the main reason why it’s so hard for me to say goodbye is because this comes after. It’s so easy for me to say hello, to welcome people into my life, and on my part, welcome their stories. That’s why I have people who only know how to say goodbye, people who only know how to say hello, and people who don’t give a damn. I guess the hard part is losing, and not so much bidding them goodbye.
So, as I walk on that stage, I enter and exit–bruises, scars, and all– with a smile on my face, because with goodbye comes remembering. And even if some of you choose not to remember, I hope that the rest of you do.
See you tomorrow.