It was around midnight, but still warm enough to sit outside the Irish pub in the French town on this early summer evening. My leaving night had taken us from the hip café restaurant in the old town, via a relaxed wine bar, to here, where we had taken a table beside the boulevard, looking out towards the mountains, for ‘just a couple more’. There were seven of us, the stayers and stalwarts. I took in my friends’ happy faces as they chatted, feeling very at home, shiny with wine and company, half-raised my glass, and announced “There’s something I want to tell you…”
That’s the opening paragraph of ‘How Not to Say Goodbye’, my contribution to the anthology Once Upon an Expat by Lisa Webb. If you’re curious to know the rest of the story, you can order your copy here, or skip to the end of this post for details of a giveaway!
I’ve done lots of leaving over the past few years, and said goodbye to too many people. Another leaving season has just come and gone, as friends’ postings have come to an end and they’ve moved on to new adventures. It took a while to sink in, but this time, I wasn’t leaving. My packing this summer involved nothing but suitcases, and there are so many other ways in which my load seemed suddenly lighter.
My childrens’ school reports wished them well as they moved on to the next class, not the next school or country. I’ve watched friends say goodbye who’ve been in one another’s daily lives for the last three years – saying goodbye to family effectively – and I realised that I might be doing the same thing in two years’ time. I’ve started looking at friends I’ve grown close to, or have even just started getting to know, in a whole new light – the light of so much more to come, more to share. And I’m making plans for myself – a job, and the knowledge that I can start or continue with projects at the same desk I’ve been using for the past year.
Privileged as our life often is, these things feel like luxuries to me just now.
Of course the goodbyes don’t get any easier. However, there’s always the extra little phrase: à la prochaine in francophone Congo, or till we meet again. With one friend I’ve just said goodbye to, I can scroll back through 4 years to a message session which ended ‘Hope our paths cross again’. And in a couple of weeks I’ll be saying hello again to a good friend I’ve already said goodbye to twice. With a whole world to travel, somehow the paths often go the same way. (Of course, being in the same industry helps…)
Meanwhile, every leaving season is also a season of anticipation, new challenges, new adventures. The chance to learn the next lesson in how not to say goodbye.
Speaking of saying hello again to an old friend…
It’s been a crazy summer, but I just about remembered to get hold of my paperback copies of ‘Once Upon an Expat’ while I’m a country with an operating postal system. I have a copy to give away to a Frustrated Nester follower in Europe/UK. The book is full of inspiring, humorous and moving stories about travel and expat living, so don’t miss out! Make sure you’re following me somewhere – here or facebook or instagram – then add a comment below letting me know. Do this before midday Friday BST (ie in around 48 hours – then I’ll have a day or so to post it off before being out of the range of postal services once again…) *Edit* I should probably add that after the Friday deadline I’ll draw a name at random from those who have commented.
Good luck! And don’t forget – you can also order your copy here.