This year has contained a great many closing doors. It’s funny really that I, who have never been one for goodbyes, have had a year of them. In fact, if I had to give a slogan to 2014, it would be “The Year of Goodbyes.” Goodbye job. Goodbye college. Goodbye friends. Goodbye home. Goodbye. Goodbye? Or see you later?
I like “The Year of See You Later.” I have never been good at goodbyes.
The one I remember most clearly is the one with N, when I moved from Wisconsin to New York. It’s so vivid for two reasons: one, it was one of my last Wisconsin goodbyes. Two, it was completely unexpected.
The plan was to leave at 3am on Sunday morning. But then at five pm on Saturday night, it occurred to the friend going with me that it would be easier to leave right then—and she was right. I started texting N, some conglomeration of “I’m not ready,” and “I changed my mind,” and “I don’t want to go to grad school anymore.” Her response stuck with me: “You are leaving AND beginning. Here is done. You belong in New York.” I sat in the middle of the living room floor, tracing the words on my phone while everyone around me was cracking up at the glory of Sharknado 2. I had finally stopped crying just before that, but the tears came again in earnest. I swiped them away and bit my cheek to bid them goodbye. “I guess,” I texted N back.
As I hit send, the doorbell rang. When I came around the corner, I could see N through the screen door. “What the actual fuck…?” I opened the door and stepped on to my porch.
“We are late, as we need to meet a train, but I thought that you could use this.” And we hugged. A lot.
“I just stopped crying,” I said, biting on my cheek again. “I’m not ready, N. I’m not ready to say goodbye.”
“It’s not goodbye,” she said, stepping down off the porch to where her partner was waiting in the car. “It’s see you later.”
I watched as they drove away and whispered, “See you later,” to the wind.
This really has been a year of “see you later.” In February, I went to Georgia for a convention over my son’s birthday, making it the first year I wouldn’t see his memorial stone on his day. Now I see that as preparation for this year. That same trip was also a test for my PTSD, one that, with the help of a new friend, I passed with flying colors. Another preparation for this year. I followed up this monumental trip by kicking ass at my final semester of college, and graduating with honors. I got into multiple Creative Writing graduate programs, leaving me to pick where in the country I wanted to go. I took a vacation in Hawaii, because I was no longer afraid of traveling after Georgia. I said “see you later” to my friends and moved 1000 miles across the country with just my cat for companionship. I moved to New York, which is huge and filled with people; this is something I’m not sure I could have done a year ago. I can successfully navigate the subway system, and I have never gotten lost. I survived my first semester of graduate school. In fact, I aced it.
A lot of doors closed for me this year. But a lot of others opened right after them.
2014 has been what would call a challenging year. Good, but challenging. I had formed many great relationships that I had to let go in the process of moving to New York. Recently, I received a writing prompt of sorts asking me to evaluate these relationships in the greater scheme of, well, my survival of everything. If I want my thesis to be a more in-depth telling of my story, I need to examine all the sides of it. I realized while working on this prompt that there are many people have been very, very important to me—and just moving away does not make them any less important or change their significance in any way. I have spent my first five months in New York acclimating, but also missing those I left behind. I didn’t fully let the door close. I think that, in the process of that, I’ve missed out on meeting new people because I held everyone up to a standard they could never achieve. The fact that I am in a new physical location doesn’t mean I have to give up the circles of people I have; it simply means I have to enlarge them. Open them up, and open myself up to them. Close some doors to open new ones, making a bigger and better “house” in which everyone and everything is connected.
Many times when I’m on the subway, I see people who are late to the train. They ignore all of the signs, running down the stairs at a breakneck pace, to stick their arm in the closing doors in a desperate attempt to shove themselves into the car. This doesn’t always work. In fact, the doors snap shut so suddenly, it hurts to get a limb stuck in there. More often than not, I see these rushing people waiting on the platform for the next train as those of us who made it on time pull away from the station. They know that they have to be willing to let the door close.
There is a reason why the overhead announcer tells you to “stand clear of the closing doors” every single time the train doors slam shut—they could, literally, take off a limb. There is also a reason why “see you later” cannot always be avoided. When you aren’t open and willing to let a door close and move on to the next, you miss out on what you would have had at that next door. Had I not come to graduate school, had I not said goodbye, had I not said see you later … I don’t know what I would be doing now, but I know that it wouldn’t be this. If I hadn’t let the door close, I would still be standing in the same exact spot. And I don’t know if I would be as happy there.
That’s a lie. I know I wouldn’t be.
Every time I hear the announcements on the train now, I smile. I think of my friends. I think of the year I have had, the year that has been one giant closing door. One huge see you later. And I know that the door closed because another was coming along, open, after it.
I have changed, and that change has been for the better. So I love this year, the year of “See You Later.” And a part of me hopes that next year will have just as many closing doors as this one did.