The Shape of Goodbye

Instead of saying “goodbye”, we say “I’ll see you soon”.

3 min readJan 25, 2023

In the last few months, I was fortunate to have spent time with a few of my closest friends who had the means and time to visit Vietnam.

A holiday with my friend from the Philippines, CJ. He visited Vietnam for five days. Here we are sitting outside Le Place Restaurant, a few meters away from St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hanoi.

It feels GREAT to have friends over, to speak to each other in Filipino in a foreign country, talk about current events, and show them around my new home.

Too many to mention

I am now 37 years old. Just like most adults still living, I have said countless goodbyes to people, places, and beliefs many times over.

When I moved from the Philippines to Vietnam, I bid the hardest goodbye I had to make.

That day, I kissed my parents, nephew, niece, and dogs for the last time with a smile on my face. I looked cheerful, upbeat, and elated about the new opportunity — I was moving out of the country and starting a teaching job.

Peanut, my 12-year-old daughter dog, had no idea I was leaving her indefinitely. I hugged her tight promising I will see her again. I had absolutely no idea if I was going to see her soon or later.

Getting into the car with a straight face, I didn’t look back to see my family watch me leave.

The road to safety

The heaviest goodbyes are gut-wrenching. Our brain’s natural inclination to protect us finds substitutes.

Instead of saying “goodbye”, we say “I’ll see you soon” even if we know that it might be later, or that day may not come at all.

Instead of saying “I will miss you so much”, we say “I’ll call you” even if we know, in the future, we will be too occupied with life’s demands that calls will go from frequent to seldom to none in a matter of weeks.

Instead of saying “I don’t want to do this but I have to”, we keep ourselves busy.

Instead of saying “We need to end this today”, we look to a diversion. Better to talk about something else.

These substitutes serve as a cushion to a heart shattering to pieces, diminishing the discomfort. They might give us temporary relief, or a longer-lasting rescue from drowning in a sea of hard feelings.

Every goodbye has a backstory

It’s the word we try hard not to say, one that we hope we never have to say.

But it needs to be said for ourselves and the people who matter. Goodbyes signal an end and a start.

Whether we asked for it or not, life demands us to begin over, and over, and over again.

Here’s the latest list of small joys I made and my open letter to the new year.

This post is a response to the writing prompt by LaTonya Yvette from Isolation Journals.

Odyssa is a Filipino writer based in Hanoi, Vietnam. She is the author of Like A New Sun Rising: A Collection of Poems on Love and From Where I Stand: A Collection of Poems on Travel.

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