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By Rachael Waring
One of my earliest memories is a goodbye. I’m crawling around my parents' 1995 Ford Explorer, and I’m kissing every inch of the car. I know -- I was a weird kid. We were selling the car, and for some reason I needed to say goodbye to it… over… and over… and over again. I wasn’t attached to the car. I didn’t even particularly like cars. But for some reason, I couldn’t let go.

So it’s safe to say that I’ve never really liked goodbyes. I’m sentimental, and goodbyes have always felt too emotional. There’s so much pressure on a goodbye, as though we have to say everything we feel, say it perfectly, and then be ready to simply walk away.

But today, my job -- by the definition of the word "valediction" -- is to bid you all farewell.

So to help me, I’ve looked up some of the many different ways to say goodbye. Here in the US, we usually opt for “farewell,” “see you later,” or “have a good day.” Many other goodbyes are held together by a common theme: religion. “God be with you,” “God protect you,” and “blessed be” to name a few.

But not all goodbyes are simply words: many are based on actions. In some Asian countries, it is traditional to bow when leaving. The deeper the bow, the stronger the emotion attached. In many Polynesian islands, a shell necklace is a traditional parting gift. In Russia, when a guest leaves your home it is in good taste to avoid cleaning the house for a while, to keep their energy in the space. In Turkey, when a friend drives away, it is believed that throwing a bucket of water behind their car will create a river that symbolizes their smooth travel and safe return.

There is an unspoken contract in every one of these goodbyes. They all imply that you will return one day. In fact, we almost never give ultimate goodbyes, the type of farewells that can never be amended. Maybe that’s why this goodbye feels so unnatural. It doesn’t make sense that after so much time -- be it four years, three years, two years, or one year -- we will never truly return to the NMH we know today. After this weekend, NMH will never be what it is right now.

And this goodbye is so complicated, because NMH has been a lot of things to each of us at different times: a summer camp, a prison, an experiment in adulthood, a safe haven, a challenge, a perpetual all-nighter, and finally, a place where we were allowed to find ourselves. A place to spend the last of our fragile adolescence -- as we slowly, inexplicably, and all too suddenly, grew into adults.

This growth, this irreversible change, happened at a different time for each of us. Maybe it was the moment when we calmly handed in our final papers on time, having finally figured out how to print with Google. Maybe it was the moment when we took our friend’s 7 am workjob shift, even though we really wanted to sleep in. Maybe it was the moment when we realized that we no longer need our parents to sign us up for the charter bus or the parent teacher conferences. Maybe it was picking up our gowns, when we realized that, ready or not, we have to go.

So now I guess it’s really time to say my own goodbye. I’ve saved my personal favorite for last: “Peace be with you.” It’s my favorite because it captures the essence of goodbye: the potent mixture of leaving and staying, of ending and beginning. In the goodbye, there is a hope for the happiness of the people it leaves behind. It is inherently unselfish: it does not shout “miss me;” it does not shout “see me later;” it does not shout “make me feel loved.” At its core, the goodbye is centered around peace of mind: the lack of regrets, the knowledge that everything will work out, the courage to try again and the wisdom to know when to stop. It’s not really even a goodbye, but a wish for someone, or something, you love.

So, today I say peace be with you, NMH. I say it to all of my classmates, my teachers and mentors, and to the institution itself. Today I make a wish for you all. Because I don’t like goodbyes. But there has to be something to say to the place that has helped us, nurtured us, stressed us out, and pushed us to be the best we could be, physically, mentally, and, most importantly, emotionally. So peace be with you, NMH. And peace be with you to the class of 2015. May you grow into all that you will be. And peace be with you to our adolescence. It’s time to move forward.

Thank you.


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