When my husband and I first moved to Minnesota, we went to a local playhouse for a show, “How to Speak Minnesotan.” Being from Chicago, it was hilarious. I remember the skit on the Minnesota Goodbye and how they seem to go on and on and on. Sixteen years later, I’ve grown to fully grasp the Minnesota goodbye. It takes a while to warm up your car… don’t ya know!
This year however, I think was the longest Minnesota goodbye in history. It’s officially been 1 year since my husband took a job in Chicago and we began looking for our new home. Although we started last October, due to hockey season for my son, we didn’t want to move the family until Spring break. There were other factors involved in the timing, but yes, we really became Minnesotans and hockey is that important. What this meant for me and my family is that we spent the whole school year saying goodbye and then the whole summer visiting and saying goodbye again. Even now a year later it still feels like we are continually saying goodbye. Each time we send a note or e-mail, facetime or visit it’s another goodbye. I am struck by how impactful goodbyes are and how little we really acknowledge how difficult this transition can be for our children and students.
One way we can deal with saying goodbye is to just get over it and move on. However, according to Christine Carter (2015) in The Sweet Spot, How to Find Your Grove at Home and Work, ignoring tough feelings is a recipe for disaster. Tough feelings and experiences are our opportunities for growth and we are better off trying to just experience the emotion and name it rather than push it in the background. As we were saying our endless goodbyes this was something I began to do in my head. Each time I realized it was the last time I was doing a certain activity or seeing a particular friend I took a moment to experience that hurt and reminded myself that this was tough but it was going to be ok. But what really got me through was taking the next step. Gratitude. These moments and experiences helped me realize over and over just how lucky I am and I took each of these as an opportunity to express gratitude. Winnie the Pooh’s saying, “How lucky am I to have someone that makes saying goodbye so hard,” became my silent mantra. By focusing on thankful I was rather than how sad, I was able to move forward.
While recognizing my emotions and expressing gratitude for the experience and the challenge were necessary first steps, I think the real key to saying goodbye and moving forward is to really create a vision and a plan for the moving forward. Almost any strategist will tell you that a strong mission is the key to success and there are a lot of good models out there. I particularly like a lot of the work by Stephen Covey with his seven habits. While his work started with executives, it has extended to writings for families, teens, schools and children. His son, Sean, in his book, The 7 Habits of Happy Kids, calls this habit for creating a vision, “Begin with the End in Mind.” When I was moving, I kept the end in mind by creating a vision board, pulling together a collage of images that captured what I wanted my new life to be like. On more than one occasion when my goodbye emotions got too strong, I was able to look at this board and focus on where I was headed. It is also surprising how many of the things I put on it have come true. Now it has become my daily guide. As I look at it each morning I ask myself, “What can I do today to make this vision true?”
Kids transitioning to a new grade level, recent graduates, and students moving can benefit from help in creating a vision board of what’s coming next. It doesn’t have to be complicated, sketches or drawings on a poster or a collage of magazine clippings are all that you need to create a picture of a future state. If you have access to technology, pic collage or glogster are useful tools for pulling together digital pictures into a more multimedia type poster. For other students, writing, verbalizing or acting out their visions might be more suitable. The medium is not as important as the action itself. Identifying a goal or a positive image of the future, and the next steps needed to get there help students move from being stuck in the sadness of a goodbye to acceptance and the ability to continue to learn and grow.
Because our extended family is from the Chicago area, the drive from Minnesota to Illinois has been well traveled by our family. As we crossed state lines we would say, “Goodbye…Minnesota, Hello…Wisconsin, Goodbye Wisconsin…Hello Illinois. As we finally made the last of our Minnesota goodbyes and traveled to our new home and life, my daughter posted an ode to Minnesota on Facebook. I think it captures well the steps to goodbye…recognize and accept the feeling, express gratitude, create a vision. So for now, I’ll leave this post with goodbye, thank you for sharing in this journey, and I look forward to sharing again.
Today we left you, today we realized what you did to this family.
You made us hockey players, you got us to love snow, you got us to get a dog, you taught us how to skate and work a snow blower, you got us friends that will be with us forever in our hearts. Dear MN, we will come back and visit and we will always be a little Minnesotan. But from this day on we are now in my home state. And Illinois will treat us well. We will miss everything about MN but it’s time to try a little change. We shall always love MN. And thanks for teaching us a lot. We love you MN!
Yours, the Petersons