What makes a goodbye good?

One month from today I say goodbye to La Paz and Bolivia. And I’m feeling pretty good about it; I’m ready to go home.

Bolivia: please take this as a compliment.

“Seeya” with a smile?

In the last week or so people have started registering that I am going away “soon”; I’m beginning to get questions about what I want to do before and what my plans are for the future. I’ve realised that there are a couple of places I’d like to visit before I leave, but I won’t feel unfulfilled if I don’t make it there. As for the future, I’m unsurprisingly unsure. Both are truly terrible answers to the questions I am getting.

I’ve been feeling bad about telling people I’m actually not sad about leaving. Because it sounds like I don’t care much for this place and its people, that I’ve had a sub-standard experience, that I’m somehow happy to get out of here.

What I’m starting to see is that it’s all to the contrary: what this really means is that I have no unfinished business and no regrets painfully binding me to Bolivia.

I see this now because it wasn’t the case when I left Spain and Ecuador.

The goodbyes that hurt

My study abroad semester in Madrid was the first time I lived independently overseas. Everything was cool, amazing. Many things were hard. Several things I wish I’d done differently. When I got to the end of my stay in Spain, it seemed like I had just gotten into the swing of speaking Spanish and navigating the city, and now I had to leave. I felt like I meant nothing to anyone there; I wished I had made more of an effort; I longed for more time. When I arrived back home, it was winter and I had the bruising and numbing sensation of having lived five crazy months which no-one I knew would ever be able to share with me or even understand.

Two years in Ecuador was more than I had expected. If I’d stayed 6-12 months as per the initial plan, I suspect I’d have left feeling like I did when I left Spain. In 24 months, I got know Loja and it got to know me; I put a lot of effort into work and relationships; I had a good chunk of time there. But I was weary and wounded at the end of two years and that blurred my vision. I judged myself harshly. It was the right time to go home – I needed that – but I was also leaving a part of me behind in Ecuador.

 

It’s been a distinct experience here in Bolivia. There have been surprises and there have been struggles. I’ve learned a great deal and I’ve been able to contribute, too. I’ve been able to share different parts of my life with different people. I’m gonna miss these people and I’m gonna miss aspects of my life in La Paz. But I have the blessing of knowing it’s entirely possible for me to visit my friends here in the future. I understand my season in Bolivia is ending – it was always meant to be just a season.

This is where I’m at, one month away from departure. Sure, this might change when I get to my final week here. But overall, I have a lot of peace about the whole leaving thing. Goodbyes are always hard – but this one should also be good.

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