When I left the Dominican Republic after high school graduation, my goodbyes all crackled with an unspoken electricity – one which I tried, and failed, to contain. I was too excited about what lay ahead to truly let the endings sink in. I was already skipping ahead to the hellos that awaited me in Canada: the four walls of a dorm room, newfound independence; a building of strangers, friends; books on books on books, curiosity. The goodbyes were rushed and I brushed them off like another routine I needed to complete for my freedom, like packing my suitcase or finishing my uni applications. It wasn’t until I returned to the Dominican Republic a year later that I realized the impact of stepping on that plane without looking back – my world in that backwards city would never be the same as it had once been. Thirteen months away had changed me irrevocably, and Santo Domingo had scurried on without me – my home was no longer my home, and it likely never will be again. I returned a different person, and my farewells meant more than I had appreciated when I first said them.
Then there are the goodbyes that happen because things have naturally, sleepily reached an ending. After four years in Victoria, I had friend groups that were disorganized and spread apart. I was frazzled and exhausted by school, disenchanted by my job. I was tired and knew in my bones that it was time to go. There was nothing new left for me in the Victorian streets of the city or the four-walled classrooms of my university. My time there taught me countless lessons and kissed me with some of my best memories. I’ll never forget the cackles of friends when I first tumbled in a skating rink, the camaraderie felt between a group of downtrodden investigative journalism students, getting lost while chasing Christmas lights with a best friend, drunken nights followed by caffeinated mornings, the breathlessness of first falling in love. Walking through BC’s capital will always fill me with the nostalgia of so many firsts, so many experiences and butterflies in my stomach that I can’t put words to. But I’d explored all the corners of my life in Victoria tirelessly, and there was nothing more I could take away from it. I grew restless and listless, and my goodbye in May was made with both gratitude and an unshakeable certainty that this choice was the right one.
And finally there is this kind of goodbye, one that is not quite ready to be said. This is a goodbye topped with a little separation anxiety – a toddler clinging to its mother’s hand on the front steps of a school. Good things lie ahead, and I know that, but my thoughts are equal parts excitement and uncertainty. My seven short months in Vancouver have been jam-packed by a whole different breed of firsts, a set of unfamiliar faces that have fast become family, lessons I am still wrapping my head around. This city has reminded me of what really matters in life, how to get back to my roots while still challenging myself to grow in new directions. It’s put me on a path that strays from the one I’ve settled into in the last five years. Part of this new approach is saying goodbye before I’m ready, pushing myself into unfamiliar territory. I’ve asked myself several times now – why are you leaving a place where you finally feel like you’ve found your footing?
In the end, it’s because I have to feel at home not with a place or with a newfound family. I need to keep changing landscapes until I’m at home with myself. This is a goodbye I have to say, even though it feels like I’m leaving home for the first time all over again, leaving behind my grumpy cat and the boy who warms my toes on cold nights, the brother I’ve watched grow up so suddenly, the endless sunsets and the friends that have been there for moments that mean everything and nothing all at once. Leaving this house that creaks from the weight of the smiling memories it holds between its peeling walls.
I’m not ready to say goodbye in a week. My heart is too full of Vancouver to leave it behind yet. And that is, I think, the best kind of goodbye.