No one says that. Because saying goodbye is just a difficult thing to do. A lot of people say they are bad at goodbyes. And they probably are. But thats ok, I think we probably all are.
Over the last 5 months, I’ve built a home away from home in a way that I’ve never really done before. Earlier in the year I backpacked across Thailand, but never really put roots down in any new place. And when I moved from my parents home to study in a different city, I always knew I could return soon, and have, for holidays and important events. These have certainly involved saying goodbye, but leaving Korea was different.
I’ve never been away from home this long. And I’ve never built a new home anywhere else before. I’ve had time to settle in, find my legs and stretch them. I’ve had time to feel at home. There’s been time to build friendships and share life. I’ve not only fallen in love with Korea and it’s beautiful people, I have also had the privilege of seeing a glimpse into another culture, another world, in which I am the outsider, the alien, the Other. And I think that’s been a a very healthy thing. Perhaps the biggest difference is that I’m saying goodbye to friends that I may never see again. Friends, and places. New spaces where I’ve taken risks, grown, loved and been hurt. I guess there’s a part of me that’s afraid that these experiences will lose the meaning they have now. That I will join back into the flow of life in Australia and, having not shared this experience with most at home, forget the depth of its impact on my life. This place, this experience, is difficult to say goodbye to. Ofcourse I don’t know the future, and perhaps I will return. But perhaps not. Long distance feels permanent.
I’ve always thought of time such that the present doesn’t exist. Like time is a constant flow of the past meeting the present, with no space in between. But paradoxically, the present is all we have. We are stuck in this line of forward movement. The present moment is where we are, and we can only hold the past and present as abstracts. As ideas.
When I say goodbye, often my emotions often don’t match up with the logic of the event. Like I can’t fully be present. I remember a few years ago, when my sister and her family were leaving Sydney to live out in the country, they had packed up all they had and the time came to say goodbye to neighbours and friends. My nephew, just a few years old at the time, was too young to understand the significance of the event. On the day they were to leave, he had a petty fight with a friend over a toy and, in a mess of tears, refused to make up. He couldn’t comprehend that this was their last moment together. All he understood and could act upon was what he felt at the time. Sometime I feel like my unconscious is like this, refusing to acknowledge the significance of a moment.
But that’s just it! Goodbyes happen in a moment, but goodbye can’t be covered in a moment. These moments often feel as though they have to somehow sum up a relationship. Which is, of course, very difficult, perhaps impossible. If we ignore the fact of separation right up until it occurs, it’s too late. It’s easy to put off goodbye until the last moment because its hard to deal with. But I think we sorely miss out when this happens. When we don’t say goodbye properly, we run from the hurt and push it away, inside, to a place where it goes for now but but cannot stay for long. We need to think about ways to embrace this difficult part of life in its fullness.
I don’t think there is some new format with which we can say goodbye so that it doesn’t hurt. It’s ok to feel empty when we say goodbye. Actually, I think we need to be sad. It’s important. And to do this, I think we need to let ourselves experience this trauma before the moment of separation occurs, because we can’t experience life’s fullness in real time. I’ve started trying to say thank you in advance. Thanks for friendship. Spending time with people. Doing some of your favourite activities. Talking about memories. Allowing yourself to imagine life without them. Hugging before the final moment, to stretch out the goodbye. Physical touch is good, and difficult too. You take the risk on an awkward hug, but it’s worth it. I think its helping me. To try and do it well. It’s hard but I’m learning.
I am bad at hellos. It’s a similar difficulty, summing up a return. You miss someone, and you’ve been missing them. Its hard to be away from people you love. But no one talks about the difficulty in finally getting what we desire. Finally getting something we've been waiting for. Not just in a selfish way, I mean reuniting with a person. Sometimes I wish I could just hold someone. Or just sit on the couch with them. or sing a song. Or just to say hello and not see them again, but for a shorter while.
Goodbye Korea, thank you for the last five months.