This week my husband headed back to our home in Madagascar. I guess it’s home. It’s still kind of home. Our stuff is there so it’s not NOT home..and he’s there too…or will be soon. Home. Always so incredibly complicated. Anyway, home’s not what I’m thinking about this week. I’m thinking about goodbyes.
The expat life is such a big long series of hellos and goodbyes. More than any other group of relatively stable people, we welcome in the new and usher out the old with an almost unbelievable frequency. I find that this is one of the things that my non-expat friends and family find the most difficult to understand. And, I get their point of view. I grew up in a small Texas town with the same kids for 18 years. The hellos and goodbyes were almost laughably easy…you’d say goodbye for the day only to see your best friend at the one small super market 10 minutes later. For most of my childhood our phone numbers only had four digits.
My personal opinion is that saying goodbye gets easier. Not because we become immune to the challenges (although I do think it’s fair to say we become more resilient), but because we learn how to do it. If you’re new to this lifestyle and finding the goodbyes to be difficult, I promise it will get better. Not because your heart toughens or because you lose the need for permanence, but because you’re resilient, you’re creative and you’re living out your passions – and those things bring you closer to people that are just like you, people who get it, and the goodbyes become just a more complex way to say, “See you soon.”
Interested in gaining new ideas for weathering the goodbyes? Here are few strategies I’ve used myself and others employed by some of my favorite and most resilient expat heroes.
- Make actual, literal, set-in-stone, tickets-purchased plans to see each other again. Obviously, this is not possible in all situations, but when it is – go for it! Why? Because then you really are just saying, “See you in a few.”
- Schedule virtual dates – by phone, by Skype, SMS – whatever. The important thing here is to treat these appointments like real-time, real-world commitments…because, when you’re an expat, they are!
- Don’t be shy about friending or following someone you like on social media, but never really got to know. These connections can end up being stronger than you thought, even after you’ve left for a new home.
- Resist the urge to hold back because you know you’ll have to say goodbye. As they say, you only live once! So much can happen in the blink of an eye. I don’t believe it’s humanly possible to regret full-heartedly seeking out the friendship of someone who interests you.
- Get creative! Think of cool and unique ways to keep this person in your life and remind them you’re thinking of them. Send them little gifts. Write notes on cards and send them at regular intervals. Pass along recipes, book reviews, video clips, favorite songs or other special pieces of info that say, “This made me think of you.”
- Accept the fact that, despite the initial difficulty of saying goodbye, you might actually grow apart from the person you’re leaving. And then, allow those memories to take up residence in your heart, untainted by the distance that separates you.
- Decide to believe that your paths will cross again one day. This one’s a choice, but it’s huge and the energy of positive thinking can, at the very least, put a positive twist on separation. Know that whatever brought you together is likely still working somehow in favor of your reunion.