This is the final guest post by Jason Reynolds, who is concluding his third term as the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature.
FIVE WAYS TO SAY GOODBYE (a farewell newsletter)
- SEE YOU SOON. This is not the same as, See you later. I repeat, this is not the same as, See you later. “See you later” lacks urgency. It lacks seriousness and commitment. But my time as your National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature was certainly very serious to me and I was relentlessly committed. So to walk away from it, to bow out with a cavalier, See you later, is like throwing my hand up and waving goodbye while already turned away. Instead, I’ll say, See you soon. Because soon implies effort. That I’ll work to still be a light, partially to shine on the next ambassador, and always to shine on you.
- No words. Just the involuntary vibration our bodies experience whenever we feel joy, and sometimes anxiety. In this case, both fit the bill. We spent so much time joking around, finding new things to laugh about, new ways to find spiked moments of bliss in such a complicated time, and we’ll need the laughter to linger as we part. I met a lot of you who were nervous to talk to me at first, and there would be nervous laughter. But by the end of our time, I’d like to think even if some of the nerves were still there, most of our hooting became rooted in relationship. That we got the joke. And still get it. So we get each other.
- KEEP TRYING. As I take a step back, as I take off my medal, remove myself from this incredible position, I want us, you and me, to make a promise to each other. I promise to keep trying, if you do.
- THANK YOU. One of the best ways to say goodbye. It can be interchanged with, I love you. They both work, and they typically have the same effect. You should know, I have been forever changed. Serving you these last three years has confirmed everything I already thought about the young folks of this country. That they love. And love big and wide and deep and high and whole. That they love enough to cry for their peers—I’ve seen it—or to cheer for them as if they are already famous. I’ve seen this, too. So, I could say I love you, but you already know that. Instead, in this moment, I’m going to offer some gratitude. Thank you for reminding what it is to be human. And for trying. And laughing. With effort and urgency.
- DON’T. That’s all. Just don’t. Instead, say, hi. Reach out and let me know when you’ve dunked for the first time, or when you’ve written your first poem, or got your first pair of Jordans, or got your learner’s permit, or booked the role, or got into college, or made the team, or passed that class, or finally finally finally finished reading your first book. And I’ll tell you, hopefully, that I’ve just woken up from a sweet, sweet nap. My first in a while.