rant: goodbye seems to be the hardest word
Emily Naismith has a tricky time making tracks.
Let me tell you my wild, unadulterated fantasy. It’s to be able to say, “I’m going now… see ya,” and walk out the door of a party or meeting in 10 seconds flat. Instead, what actually happens is a five-part process where I spend yonks stewing over the exact, correct moment to leave; grab my possessions and sit awkwardly with one foot pointed towards the door; try to say bye, but the words don’t come out; actually say bye, but don’t get to leave because another conversation starts; then actually leave and almost vomit in a pot plant on my way out from the emotional turmoil I’ve just gone through.
Making an exit is such an issue for me that I learnt piano until I was 21 – despite the fact I hadn’t practised for five years – because I couldn’t bring myself to tell my sweet old teacher that my heart wasn’t in it. (Apologies for the auditory pain I put you through, Marge, but cheers for still giving me a delicious Clinker lolly each week.)
There’s something about the act of leaving that dials up my awkwardness to an excruciating level. When winding up the only government job I’ve ever had, I said goodbye to my super-straitlaced boss with what I thought was an obligatory air kiss on the cheek, but what he thought was an obligatory hug, and ended with me planting a forceful kiss on his neck. His actual neck. Thank god I was already leaving, because I’m pretty sure that’s a fireable, or at least HR-worthy, offence.
Gatherings of around 10 or so people are officially hardest to depart. There aren’t enough people to effectively ‘ghost’ without a trace (my preferred way of leaving) but there are too many to individually say goodbye to. It makes you feel like a sad salad on a sushi train conveyor belt as you slowly make your way around the room on your way out.
The jackpot is when someone else announces they’re going to leave and you can piggyback off them. That way, there’s less attention on you and you don’t have to pierce the conversation yourself. Although, this move comes with an extreme warning: if you walk out of the room with that person, bid them adieu, then wander off the same way, you’re stuck with the dreaded double-goodbye, which is absolutely horrendous and should be avoided at all costs – even if it means intentionally walking in the opposite direction for literal kilometres.
Now, let’s move away from the pain of real-life conversations. You’d think group video or phone chats would be easier to leave, but you know what? You’d be wrong. You can’t put your hand on someone’s elbow and wave sheepishly while they’re mid-conversation with someone else, motioning that you’ll see them soon but it’s not worth interrupting them. You have to wait and announce your intention to leave in any break you can find. It’s hard! I remember listening to my mum on the phone when I was a kid – I used to tease her for saying, “A-NY-WAYYYYYYYY…” really slowly and loudly when she obviously wanted to stop talking now, please. It was such an obvious and, to me, slightly rude cue… but perhaps she was onto something?
What is it about making an exit that’s so freakin’ hard? There’s definitely the fact I don’t want to drag the vibe down and pull people out of the moment, but I think it’s mainly because – in my mind, anyway – it implies that where I’m going next is better than where I currently am. Even though I’m usually just headed home to lie on my floor and eat olives by the jarful (which, granted, is better than most places).
A-NY-WAYYYYYYY… I’m off. See ya.
Snap by Stephanie Walk