June is a horrible month for expats. It’s the worst. So many goodbyes. Even the ones that aren’t particularly hard or remarkable add up and up and up… until the weight of all the losses seems like it will crush life out of you.
“Are you ready to leave?” I asked her. I wanted to hear her say yes. I wanted to hear that she knows they are making the right choice, that she has lived every experience she wanted to in Africa, that she has closure and said her goodbyes well and that the time for them to move on to the next step and she’s excited about it. But I also knew that hearing those words would hurt because it would feel as if she’s ready to move on from me, as if our friendship was one of the items she had piled up in the give-away stack to leave here.
My head knows it’s not actually true that she is moving on from our friendship, but my heart knows that distance changes things. I know this from experience as the expat who ‘gets left behind’ over and over… Each goodbye builds on the pain and sadness of the previous ones. It’s been a year and we are still grieving the losses from last June, the month of Expat Exodus, plus the ‘bonus departures’ that come up so quickly and take your friends unexpectedly. It’s part of the revolving doors of expat life.
So yeah, June hurts.
Everything in my expat-self wants to become tougher because of it. It doesn’t take long for the goodbyes to get too hard, too often and all you want to do is shut down emotionally.
Two thoughts swirl in my brain at once:
1. This is too hard. I’m finished. I’m done opening my heart up to make friends, knowing they’ll get taken away six months, a year or two years later. I don’t want to risk the heartache.
2. This is too wonderful. As hard as it is, I have to choose to continue opening myself up to these amazing, go-deep friendships. I don’t want to risk missing out on a gift this meaningful.