Leaving Cities & Cities Behind

We’re a teensy bit late on publishing Molly’s touching article exploring GOODBYE: our apologies! Please read and enjoy!

How do you say goodbye to your home? Do you do it piece by piece, reliving each memory, each face of every friend, each sunset you watched and then let it go? Do you walk the cobblestone street down to the ocean and say farewell to each grain of sand on the beach before you’re ready to leave? Do you cry or do you put all your emotions in a box and seal it up for the plane ride before you carefully crack it open to process?

Maybe you’re happy to leave? Maybe it was a home that was hard and painful and had bad memories? Do you relish every moment of packing up that life and putting it away so you can start fresh in a new place? Is it a celebration, for every minute that passes means you’re closer to getting away?

I don’t know how to hold every memory from every city in my mind. I’m slowly forgetting sunsets and words and faces from the places I’ve held so close to my heart. I’m forgetting things like the beaches in Costa Rica, Jacó and Manuel Antonio, we’d take the bus to on weekends. Or the smiling faces of the Peruvian women who all treated me like their own daughter. In the moment I don’t think about the future, about where I’ll be living or what my life will look like. My mind practices the process of letting go, adapting to change and saying goodbye continuously.

How do you enter a new stage of life holding onto the past while trying to assimilate into a new culture and a new version of you?

I’m no longer surrounded by international students from the international schools in Perú and Costa Rica that I was shuffled between for years. I no longer have conversations with peers about which airline is the best to fly on or which country has the tastiest food. I’m not sure how to merge my worlds. The worlds of cooking gallo pinto for comfort food while simultaneously missing the lakes of Minnesota. Of wanting to greet everyone with a kiss like in Perú but feeling held back by the cultural norms of America. Of feeling at home in a Latin American culture while holding an American passport. My heart longs to be back in a foreign country where I don’t know the customs or the language fluently. I feel lost in a place where it looks like I belong yet feel like a foreigner. I feel alienated in conversations at a table where everyone speaks the same language as me.

How do you let go of your homes and embrace a new one? Do you cling to the past like I do?

The people that made up my everyday are now the ones who are married and seem to have moved on from this global nomad life we called normal. I feel like the only one that isn’t willing to settle down and is resisting a “normal” life. I don’t want stability. I don’t want to be comfortable.

Will we ever find a city that we can call home or will part of us always feel the pull of going somewhere new?

Maybe you are like me and think that it is easier to keep moving and be the one to leave rather than having someone close to you leave first. I don’t know how to live with all my memories of all my homes mixing together. Sometimes it seems overwhelming and I wish I could answer the question “Where are you from?” in one simple word. But this is not my reality. I remember that I truly loved the way I grew up and all the cities we called home.

How do you say goodbye to your home? Do you retrace your steps to all your favorite places? Do you make a playlist of all the songs you listened to in that city? Do you cry on the plane as you take off for the last time, seeing your home from the clouds and wishing you were mingling with the ant-sized people below?

Is it bittersweet? Maybe you are happy and sad to leave all at the same time? Do you grieve the places that were full of laughter while also being excited about the new places you’ll discover?

I feel like I’ve held onto some places and let go of others. I let go of the house on 39th Avenue in Minnesota so easily that it’s almost forgotten. But I have yet to erase the image of the sky in Lima turning to a hazy yellow when the sun sets from the sea of scattered street lights covering the city. Some were hard, others not so much. Then there are the homes that I still wake up longing to return to.