Spring is my least favorite season of the year. Why? It’s allergy season, the season of sneezing and itchy eyes and generally not feeling great. This was true in Colorado; it’s worse in Jordan, where I’ve discovered that I’m allergic to olive pollen.
Spring is also the end of the school year.
In the years since I moved overseas, spring has become the season of goodbyes. Sometimes I’ve been the one leaving, and I know how hard that can be.
But more often, I’ve been the one who is staying behind.
Every year after school finishes, I send off expat friends who are moving on.
As I approach the springtime ritual of goodbyes, I have developed five habits that help me walk through this time of both sadness and joy.
- I let myself grieve. It’s never easy to send off people with whom I’ve shared life, and that’s good. It means I’ve enjoyed the blessings of friendships, so saying good-bye is hard.
- I approach this season as a balancing act. I want to be there to help those who are leaving, who can be overwhelmed with all the tasks and emotions that go with closing down an overseas home. At the same time, I need to keep focused on life in my host country. I try to plan time in my schedule for both.
- I’ve developed an open-handed approach to friendships. I used to promise I would stay in touch with the people who left. But before long, we both would be swept up into daily life. I would feel guilty that I wasn’t finding time to communicate with those who were special to me. However, I’ve learned that even without constant contact, there is a unique connection between people who've shared life abroad. When we do reconnect, our expat experiences are the lens we use to give each other glimpses of our present lives. So now I don’t make promises about staying in touch, but I do anticipate those times when we do reconnect in the future.
- I let myself get excited about staying. Just as those leaving are often excited to move on, I let myself get excited about staying. I get to welcome new expats to this place that I love. I look forward to sharing tips about how to navigate daily life and introducing them to people I know and love. Which leads me to what is most important. . .
- I remember how much I love and appreciate my local friends. They are stability in the season of goodbyes. I do have many good expat friends, but they aren’t the reason I continue to work abroad. I stay because of my local friends who laugh at my cultural mistakes, who help me out when I’m struggling, and who share so many parts of their lives with me.
This spring, I know I will have some sad goodbyes. I also know I will have times of joy with old and new friends in this country I am choosing as my home.
The sadness of goodbyes and the joy of new beginnings are the mixed blessings of choosing to be the one who stays behind.
About the Author: Libby is an IDEAS Associate and professional librarian. She currently resides in Jordan and works with libraries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia. Enjoy other blogs by Libby, such as 4 Tips to Adjust to a New Neighborhood.