I don’t like saying goodbye. It feels like a break with no set date to return, a pause without a play button in sight. No matter how much confidence we have in the tomorrow, it is hard to leave today.
Return in sight
I was an emigrant for 17 years and I quickly found out a way to make departing easier. Whenever I had to leave Lisbon and fly back to London, the secret was to have a planned (ideally booked) date to return. I remember vividly the times I left with a half-hearted ‘see you soon’ because I did not know what soon meant. So I started always having a date ahead planned. That made it easier. There was a return in sight.
For the last 2 years commuting, there have been lots of goodbyes that were really ‘see you soon’. Especially with the little ones. To make sure the kids conceptualised it, I started a hug and kiss ritual for each morning and evening away. At the end, I would mark the return morning without a hug or kiss, to clearly mark the time I would be there myself to do it. It gives them a fixed timing. It gives me an end. It puts the return in sight.
What we miss
A few weeks ago, I started writing an article about what I missed. Despite going to London every 2 weeks, there were people I missed in my life that I was used to having present. Because people made London for me.
Now, as I am really due to say goodbye, a goodbye that I did not say 2 years ago when moving to Lisbon, it all suddenly becomes real. Whilst I have set date to return this Summer, I am no doubt saddened by the loss. The small (and big) chats at dinner, the walks to get food or coffee, the birthdays or the events, and even the non events. It all suddenly becomes more distant. Yes, London is around the corner, but keeping the last 19 years of friendships intact is an unrealistic expectation. And I will be missing those. A lot.
Was it real
Saying goodbye and moving away brings fears to the surface. Does it mean as much to you as it means to me? It should not matter, I know. As long as what we feel is real. But it kind of does. I know I care about who shows up, writes or calls to say goodbye. It brings me to my reality. It confirms to me that it matters. It assures me it was real. Shared tears bring me the sanity to know it was special, that my life was touched and your life was touched. And that it matters.
The fear of being forgotten is real too. It comes to the surface in times of big change, I have seen it before. What will happen when I am gone. Again, a thought the philosopher in ‘The Courage to be Disliked’ would deem irrelevant. What matters is to make the contribution, not whether people remember it.
No matter all I ‘know’, feelings can sometimes trump good intentions and thoughts. But it is hard to stay true to essence in times of change. Will the past stay there and be forgotten? Or can we forget it (from top of mind), but not erase it.
As I seek to leave things behind in order so they go without pain for those that stay, I work towards the dilemma. When we move cities, jobs or lives, are we not better not to be missed? I dwindle between ideas. How do you reconcile that with the fear of being invisible?
Turning the page is hard because what you find on the other side is, metaphorically, a blank page. It is an exciting fresh start, an opportunity to design a path and curate my life at an age where I know who I am and can define what I want (and do not want) much better than before. In fact, I am not starting a new chapter. I am closing a book, drafting a new cover, and starting a whole new one. One with many chapters and empty pages to fill.
I wear the excitement of a fresh page and, surprisingly, the confidence that a whole new story will come with my true self. But as I write this epilogue, I also wear the discomfort of the unknown, the fear of not knowing when and where to start, the writer’s dilemma when a blank page stares back and a flurry of thoughts inundate me. For now, it’s time to close the book.
The unknown, will be a new adventure.
Photo by Jan Kahanek @ Unsplash