Looking at the Good in a Temporary Goodbye

by Mallary Tenore Tarpley

Today’s been a day of relaxation and exploring. I’m staying with a friend who lives in Aurora, Ill., which is about 45 minutes outside of the city. I’m Chicago bound, but haven’t gotten there yet. I’ll be heading to the city tonight for the UNITY convention. For now, I’m just enjoying the calm of the suburbs.

I’m leaving for an internship in Dallas this coming Saturday, and so the thought of leaving a place I’ve actually come to call “home” is tough. But having a day to relax in the burbs has helped. While my friend has been at work today, I’ve downloaded songs onto my new iPod, sung along with Nora Jones, caught up on e-mails and …. relaxed! Yesterday I watched “Batman Begins” (after having seen the kick-butt “Dark Knight” movie on Friday) and sat and read. It feels good to just sit and not have any pressing obligations. Sometimes traveling to a place where errands and obligations elude you helps put you at ease, even at a time when the check boxes next to your to-do list are still blank.

Relaxing and having some alone time today was what I needed to help ease my worries about leaving for a new place. At a point when I’m ready to say something other than goodbye, I’m joining several other journalists I know who are leaving the Tampa Bay area. Some are leaving the journalism industry altogether for law school, grad school, or other pursuits. But there’s comfort to be found in the fact that I’m coming back to Florida, and three months go by a lot faster than you think when you’re on the brink of saying goodbye.

I’m no doubt excited about having a feature writing internship and can’t wait to go into the community and write stories. I love traveling and going to new places, but even leaving for short-term trips — to California, D.C., Chicago, Dallas, etc., — can be difficult. Just the other day I heard on the radio that fewer people are going on two-week or one-week vacations because they are expensive and because people don’t feel as though they can be away from the office for that long. I’ve learned, though, that no matter where you are, the tide never stops ebbing and flowing in life’s transitive stream.

Being away from what we know and from friends and the people we care about forces us to find friends and familiarity in the unknown. It forces us to explore and learn more about our new surroundings and to appreciate what we’re away from even more. At least this is how I’m trying to think about it.

Exploring new places has always been a favorite pastime of mine, and has helped me to feel more comfortable in unfamiliar territory. So today, while my friend has been at work all day, I got to know the area around her apartment. The clouds were crying this morning and I didn’t think they’d ever stop. But the skies cleared and the sun beckoned me to step away from the computer and explore the outdoors. I didn’t know exactly where I was going, but I found my way. I stumbled across a post office, a Toys ‘R Us and an abandoned ice cream shop.

My eyes popped when I saw a sign advertising “Ice cream, Italian Ice and Churros,” but rolled when I saw the big “CLOSED” sign hanging across the door. Since ice cream wasn’t an option, I went into Toys ‘R Us and walked around. My dad used to take me there all the time when I was a kid and, as a big kid himself, he still goes there to look at matchbox cars, which he collects. I haven’t been a Toys ‘R Us kid in years, so I walked around and smiled at the giddy girls marveling over Barbie’s stylish wardrobe and at the boys bicycling around me in the aisles.

After making a small purchase, I walked back to my friend’s apartment and wrote this blog post. The sun’s now shining and I can hear the birds chirping outside. At the risk of sounding corny, it’s been one of those days where I’ve felt like singing Coldplay’s “Don’t Panic” song. “We live in a beautiful world, yeah we do, yeah we do.” It’s been one of those days where I’ve been able to tell myself that my imminent goodbye is more of a short-term “so long,” three months of exploring and doing what I love — reporting and writing. I have two days when I come back from Chicago before I leave for Dallas. It’s goodbye for now, but not for long.