A story about goodbyes
When you live abroad, far from your parents and your childhood friends, you gradually learn how to leave behind someone dear. When you become an expat and people are coming and going in and out of your life, saying “farewell” becomes a constant. In time, a permanent feeling of longing for someone becomes part of you and, because of it, you come to acknowledge any emotions gravitating towards leave-taking situations.
Or you may suppress your sentimental side, like I do, and choose to approach “goodbyes” in a very formal, rather awkward manner. One may perceive my attitude as an acquired skill, very much linked to self-reliance, when in fact the big majority would agree that it’s a coping mechanism, meant to hide my fear of losing human connectivity.
Being a global citizen, certainly, has its own downsides and one of them is precisely the impermanence of our social connectivity. There is always distance between us and the loved ones and we need to put an effort to feel part of a community, or to create a sense of “togetherness”. But our struggle teaches us awareness and helps us to consciously tune ourselves up to this particular type of existence. We embrace distances and we end up living with a luggage waiting for us to travel to the next place we call “home”. Maybe we don’t enjoy “goodbyes”, but we live for reunions, for the next “hello”, the one that bring us closer and reconnects us.
We create a new narrative. One that comforts us and shows us that this corner of the world resonates to any other, that we are not alone and somewhere, almost everywhere, there is someone else that doesn’t believe in goodbyes or distances, but is always ready to travel for us, or to let us know that his home is ours.
My post is, nevertheless, about teaching about “goodbyes” and “distances” young humans, toddlers, the very vulnerable global citizens, those who do not have any meaning of time and distance yet. They need, however, to travel in order to meet their grandparents and cousins, sometimes to different countries. They have airplanes as their favorite toys and they learn “sky” among their first words. How do we teach them about “goodbyes”? How do we teach them to accept distance and not to miss the grandmother that they have just accepted in their lives, the one that they are going to meet again only in a few months? How do we explain to them, in simple words, that Internet is their path to human interconnection and also their surrogate for human touch, for the face to face playtime. How do we teach them to transcend borders and have a sense of community against all the odds, which are “flourishing” in our current state of the world?
I do not have any answers yet. I do have though a 19-months-old little girl, who asks me every day about my parents, her “Lala” and “Tati”, the ones that I effortlessly left behind; the ones to whom I say “goodbye” with a pat on their shoulders, doing this not because I’m unsympathetic, but because I willfully choose not to look them in the eyes and sense their tears. “We will see them soon”, I often answer while a river of emotions bubbles up to my chest and makes me realize the pain I’m carrying around.
“You will see him soon” I also tell her every time she asks about her first best friend “J”, the one that moved back home, right after they finally accepted to share more hugs than slaps.
Now she learned the word “soon”, and her “soon”, pronounced with a mountain of expectations, humbles me and reminds me that we are still not there yet. We haven’t transcended pain, or space, or borders.