From the Balcony…on goodbyes

The title of this working document was stark and simple: Goodbye. When I began brainstorming my last column, I Googled different ways to say “goodbye,” all of which felt cheerier, although they meant the same thing. Somehow, “peace out” or “see you later” asks for exclamation points, if not also hand gestures or jaunty waves, in ways “goodbye” does not. “Farewell” sounds like departing from high tea. Anything in French sounds mellifluous and kind: a bientot! Au revoir! (even though the latter is as definitive as any ‘goodbye’ can be). The Spaniards also know this distinction: “hasta la vista” offers a chance of reunion, whereas “adiós” is over and out. There is hope in “take care” and “catch you later,” and possibility in “I must be going.” Funnily enough, “bye” strikes me as a casual and temporary send-off, and “bye bye” as downright banal.

This is not true for “goodbye.” Goodbye does not allow for hello again. Goodbye crosses its arms, looks a bit adamant, and declares that the end is now. It closes the door on its way out, politely, a bit formally, but firmly.

So where to begin with goodbye? When I first applied to be a columnist, exactly one year ago, I actually proposed a series investigating how seniors would balance the many conflicting emotions about their final year. I wanted to address “the acceleration of time, the phenomenon of looking both back and ahead, and examine the triumphs and regrets of our years here.” Essentially, I thought I would be writing about The Long Goodbye.

My editors basically said “bye to goodbye.” It’s too depressing, they said. You will run out of things to end, they remarked. There can only be so many ways to descrie the inexorable process. But my first column addressed the acceleration of time, the external pressures that kept us from living in the moment, and the necessity of paying close attention to everything that we often took for granted that would soon no longer be a part of our day-to-day routines. I made a vow in that piece to avoid getting dragged into senior year chaos.

So much for that.

Still when my sister and I hopped in the car last September, I recognized immediately that The Last First Day of School was upon me. I knew that this moment would inevitably lead to more “lasts.” And sure enough, they came fast and furious. The Last Halloween Costume Contest. The Last Thanksgiving Assembly. The Last Data Match. The Last Squash Practice Ever was last week. I was so excited about my Last Math Test that I didn’t study and got a 56 percent. And although I have always had a conflicted attitude about lacrosse, I was sad to learn that I would miss my Last Practice and Last Game Ever when I made the last-second decision not to play during my Senior Spring Project. It’s not as though I have ever particularly cherished doing court sprints, memorizing formulas, or spending hours on the sidelines during lacrosse games, but all of these obligations have been familiar, and there is comfort in the constant.

The wall calendar in my room, one that was once covered with various scribbled reminders and notations  directing me to classrooms and commitments, is now being taken over with empty spaces waiting for me to fill them. As requirements are fulfilled and activities end in fast succession, I have to be patient and anticipate what will come next.

After a six-month roller coaster ride, I finally have an image of my next four years. I have a new yellow and black sticker on my car and am already marking off the different dates: revisit, orientation, and registration. The Lasts are now accompanied by Firsts.

But here I’m saying goodbye to my newspaper colleagues and the often onerous but always honor-ous process of being able to write to our community about whatever I am contemplating, wondering about, or wrestling with. My fantastic editor, Brita Mackey, will likely flag that preposition at the end of that sentence, and then we will exchange a series of edits that will become like a banner across the top of the Word doc, as our iterations go back and forth: lgifford.goodbye.bm.lg.bm.lg.bm.lg.bm.lg.bm.lg.bm.lg.docx. I will miss her keen and often courageous oversight, even when we disagreed.

This piece is the last one of my tenure and thus also marks the imminent changing of the entire [Van]guard. For those of you about to join our ranks, I wish you luck and love. But rather than say goodbye, I will leave you with a phrase that Don Lemon of CNN uses when he signs off with his guests: “Good to be with you.” Thanks for everything.




I used to hate goodbyes. When I was in kindergarten, I made my mom late for work when she tried dropping me off at school. As soon as she would say “see you soon” and begin to walk off, I would cling to her arm and refuse to let go. One day, after prying me off mother, my teacher sat me at a window so I could wave as my mom left. But instead of peacefully complying, I darted from my classroom, through the hallway, out the door, and clung to the side of her leg. My mother, with unbelievable tolerance, smiled, swooped me up into her arms, and walked back into the school, ready to try again.

My childhood struggle with being able to say goodbye to my mother came from the fear that it could be the last time I ever saw my mom again. What if something happened to her while she was away? What if something happened to me? My fear was not constricted to my time at school. Immediately after my babysitter would pick me up from kindergarten each day, I would call my mother to make sure she was safe. Then, after anxiously waiting around for an entire hour, I would call her again—usually three or four times a day. Every time, my mom would pick up the phone, patiently reassure me that everything was okay, and end the call with “see you soon.”

In the evenings while my mom was still at work, I would watch TV and during ads check outside the living room window for her car. If she came more than a half hour later than usual, I’d ask my dad if he knew where she was. If he didn’t, I’d give her yet another call. But whether she was on time or an hour late, my mom would always walk through the front door and scoop me into her arms, and all my worries would subside.

While my fear of saying goodbye to my mom didn’t go away all at once (in fact, it lasted longer than I’m proud of), it eventually faded. I wouldn’t say I “grew out of it,” but rather, as my mom and I would return home safe and sound day after day, I realized that my fears of goodbyes were unfounded. When my mom would tell me, “see you soon,” I believed her.

Recently, I texted Ezra Burstein, who graduated last year, “Hey, miss you,” to which he responded, “Good, cause I’m in Boston for the night.” Despite the fact that it was 10:3o p.m. on a Wednesday, Ezra dropped by my house and told me about the slam poetry, the parties, and even the classes at Wesleyan while we made and drank hot chocolate. The way we interacted was just as it always had been. It’s like when you go to sleep at night and wake up the next morning. You know that time has passed, but it doesn’t feel like it. You don’t notice any discontinuity in your life. We picked up right where we dropped off. After he left sometime around 1 a.m., I remembered how devastated I had been last year about his going away to college. My first column was about how hard it was going to be to say farewell to seniors, but here I am again, realizing that these goodbyes are not final.

Now it’s my final column and my turn to say goodbye as a senior. As I’ve written about many times this year, high school has been a wild ride for me. I’ve found people that I want to keep around after I leave—both peers and teachers—and with the help of these people, I’ve figured out myself a little bit better. There are memories that I will look back to for years to come: driving down the highway at midnight blasting “All Night” by Chance the Rapper, with arms stretched out the window as the first taste of warm weather brushed passed our ears; falling asleep on a beach in Cape Cod and waking up to the sun peeking over the ocean as its reflection cascade over the waves; wandering through Boston late at night, wondering how a city of this magnitude can look like a ghost town.

It has been an incredible four years, and I want to thank all of you for them—you teachers who refused to accept anything less than my best, you friends who showed up at my house when you knew I wasn’t doing well. Thank you for the advice, the hugs, the memories, the compassion, the laughs—for everything.

Well BB&N, it’s time for me to go. But I’ll see you soon. I promise.


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