Yet this blog post has taken me 3 weeks to write, why - because saying goodbye is so flipping hard! I would love to follow the pattern of my other blog posts with 6 tips on how to say goodbye - but sadly I don’t have any advice here other than I have stopped actually saying goodbye, instead I say
“until next time”
“see you soon”.
This is always said sincerely because I now generally belief that although my friend is moving to Australia / New York or Toulouse, I will make the effort at some stage to jump on the plane with kids in tow to go hang out again. The world has become smaller and these friendships, like family, are worth the cost of any plane fare.
Your initial first experience of goodbye is when you are packing up all your belongings in your home country. You are jetting off to your new life abroad. There is excitement, and apprehension, but it is still sad and hard to say goodbye, sorry to say, it never gets easier. In fact one way my mother and I have come to deal with this goodbye is never go to the airport – its’ just too hard!!!
Yet - these goodbyes are only temporary. Before long (maybe a few months or a year) you will be back around the table together, or going for drinks (probably in the same pub) and catching up like you never left. My husband likes to call these friendships ‘low maintenance’, because you may not have seen each other for a few years, but you pick up right where you left off, you laugh and joke about the good old times, and it is easy and most of all fun.
The expat goodbye is really tough.
Whether you are the one leaving or being left. You say goodbye (or in my case “until next time”) knowing that the friendship which has become like family will never be the same again. Next time you do get to hang out will be because one of you is visiting the other. You have all the latest family news via FaceTime chats, and Facebook status updates. You have to say goodbye to the everyday normality of your friendship, the quick coffee after kids school drop off, cheeky glass of wine which leads to another, sharing kids birthday parties, or general normal rants will be no more.
It is the down side of expat life, the constant change and adjustment. The knowing that at any point one of your friends starts the conversation with “we are off” and before you know it, you drive past their old home, or go to give them a quick call, and there is a void, that feeling of loss in your stomach.
Expat friendships are worth their weight in gold, it often takes a while to find those special people, the ones that become like family, but once you do - you cherish those holidays you have together, the pregnancies, birthday celebrations and solo parenting weekends. I wouldn’t change them for the world, we have made some truly wonderful friends who are now dotted across the world, people that we will “see again soon” because these people matter, they get us.
Life does continue, you reevaluate whether or not you are making the right decision to stay, or if it is your time to go. The circle continues, new comers join, friends’ continue to leave. Each “hello” comes with a new opportunity see our current home through a fresh pair of eyes, someone who brings a new perspective. Yes it maybe a little awkward at first, but before long we will be sharing new adventures and laughing at the frustrations that come with living somewhere different.
So it continues the revolving door of amazing international friendships, people who leave us with memories we cherish forever, people who are now dotted throughout the world—which strangely now feels like a much smaller place.