Goodbye or see you later

Molly Halpern
2 min readMay 19, 2021

I have been dragging my feet, unable to take steps forward. I’m afraid to leave because I don’t know when I’ll be back.

Treading water is what I feel I’m doing. But not in a warm pool, comfortably wiggling around while chatting with a friend.

No, I feel I’m holding onto a dock that juts out into the cold sea. It’s a floating dock, so I don’t feel totally stable. The sun’s starting to dip in the sky, and I’m barely warm, and only because I’m moving.

Soon I know I’ll be cold. I need to get out. But the crisp air keeps me in the water.

So I hesitate.

I’m afraid to let go.

Will I ever see my mother-in-law again? Will my family of in-laws, who I love so much, all stay healthy through the winter months?

I ask myself these questions, and face the reality that I will not be able to hug these people I love goodbye.

My 81-year-old mother-in-law is still waiting for her second shot. We’re in the middle of the second wave. People we know are getting sick more frequently.

“I’m not a big goodbye person,” I’ve always said. It’s a sentence which makes sense to me, and is commonly said where I’m from.

But these days, the sentence seems tragically unclear. Like it has too many deep words… unfit to be thrown together casually in a sentence.

Part of what the sentence means to say, is that for as long as I can remember, I haven’t enjoyed big parties where I’m the center of attention. Especially right before a trip when I’ve already got a lot on my mind. So, just like big birthday parties, goodbye parties are something I avoid whenever I can.

But I’ve moved around and traveled a lot, so there have been a lot of goodbyes. And like birthday parties, other people seem to really want you to have these parties. Or at least, to stop by to say goodbye.

Balancing my desire to quietly disappear into the night with making other people happy… was something I’d yet to master.

That was before.

This time there will be no goodbye parties. There won’t even be goodbye hugs.

Even goodbye waves, socially distanced… feel more painful than nourishing.

And then I remember another hard truth. I remember that life is always this uncertain, it’s just that now we see.

I wonder if this is another reason “I’m not a big fan” of long goodbyes. Because we never know what we’re really saying.

What sounds like a see you later could turn into a goodbye forever.

A big goodbye ends up, thankfully, to be just a simple see you later.

We never know.

Maybe that’s partly why I used to prefer to casually say see you soon!… and leave without a big fuss. To me, doing so meant: I will see you again soon. Before we know it.

That was how I felt in 2019.

Now… what I would do for a long goodbye.

No, what I’d do for a long see-you-soon.