Say no to hugs

Colin made this image for our going away party. I think that besides the fact that his face looks a little creepy and he underestimated Jack's girth, it's a pretty accurate depiction of the four of us, and what our future in Seattle looks like.

Colin made this image for our going away party. I think that besides the fact that his face looks a little creepy and he underestimated Jack’s girth, it’s a pretty accurate depiction of the four of us, and what our future in Seattle looks like.

I am not a hugger. In fact, I think you could go so far as to say that I’m an anti-hugger. My family knows this and is generally very respectful of what I think they view as a mild eccentricity.

It’s not the physical contact I object to; I’m as big a fan of a firm, professional handshake as anyone and belong to the camp that believes that a handshake speaks volumes to a person’s personality. For that matter, their willingness or lack thereof to hug and be hugged probably does as well. (Try not to judge me too harshly.)

My friends and coworkers also tend to respect my aversion, although I get a reasonable amount of teasing on National Hug Day (January 21) including a shout-out in my newspaper’s company newsletter this year.

I calculated and since Friday night I have hugged no fewer than six people, which doesn’t sound particularly impressive until I add that this is more people than I’ve hugged in the last two or three years combined.

People hug for a number of reasons—most of which I simply don’t understand. But there is one hug I will almost always tolerate and often return: the goodbye hug.

My going away party was Friday night (even though I don’t technically leave San Luis Obispo until this next Friday after work) and there were a lot of goodbye hugs. These were hugs from people I’ve known for years (17 years in the case of my friend Tasha who I went to high school with), most of which I’ve worked with, many of whom I’ve fought with over deadlines or something that seemed important in the heat of the moment.

It was never going to be easy. I’ve never been very graceful with my goodbyes. I either avoid them altogether and then feel guilty about it or try my damndest to keep a tight rein on my emotions until I’m alone. The few exceptions, I’ve found, occur when I feel responsible for the person, specifically when I’m their manager at work. In those cases I do everything in my power to make it clear that this person’s work was valued, that they were valued. Some of our most ridiculous and elaborate parties have been going away parties.

My own was simpler. Leftover alcohol from the liquor cabinet, snacks from a food co-op we happened to have gift certificates for, and no furniture (most of it’s already gone, much to the cats’ dismay). I already knew how the night was going to end; I figured I didn’t need to stage anything elaborate and frankly, what with the challenges of moving to a different state, I haven’t had the time.

I hugged six people. And every single one of them represented and helped facilitate some of the best times I’ve ever had—wild and extravagant photo shoots that I sometimes think we did just to prove we could, absurd memories of prom and the high school band, geek talk about our shared love of Firefly, what I consider the best professional years of my life thus far. I feel so terribly fortunate to have found a community that gives me license to be creative, that not only accepts the idea of throwing an art party in moving trucks stationed in an industrial cul de sac but actually throws its weight behind the idea and helps make it an incredible reality (not to mention two of the best nights of my life). These are people (adult people) who play hide and seek with me, who let me teach them kick and can, who give me gifts of going away art so I have something beyond incredibly vibrant memories with which to remember them.

This is the community that helped me publish my first novel, that helped edit the second, and that I will soon be haranguing for assistance with the third considering that I just hit the 100,000 word mark two nights ago.

The moving process, though overwhelming, seems to be successful thus far. I think my greatest proof of that fact is that I’ve been trying to find a home for Cat Cat’s dollhouse and last week a volunteer for the Santa Maria Valley Humane Society suggested that I donate it to their cats. Which means that when we are gone Cat Cat’s dollhouse will offer solace and exercise to cats in need. Truly, I can’t imagine a better use for that dollhouse, or a better indication that things can and will work out for the best provided I’m willing to put in the effort to make it happen.

I need these strange little wins for the goodbyes yet to come (of which there are significantly more than six). And it’s true that I’m excited for all the stories yet to be told—the warm, passionate weirdoes who become part of my new Seattle tribe; the ravings about the food and drink scene; my bizarre attempts to go dog mushing in Seattle in April (and subsequent ban from the local shelters); the thrill of working in a new industry so different from journalism, etc. I’ll have years of these stories—decades even if everything goes according to plan and it doesn’t turn out that Goober slowly melts your internal organs. For now, I’m trying to appreciate the time I have left. Four more days in SLO. That’s 359 less than I originally intended to spend here, and about 3,593 days shy of how much time I’ve already spent here.

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