January 25, 2010

The Art of Saying Goodbye

There are a lot of things that they don’t tell you about the Peace Corps. For instance, they don’t tell you that there is a lot of paper involved/wasted in the months leading up to your departure. The packet that gets mailed to you in regards to your invitation is a hefty weight…all of which is paper. The “Welcome to Zambia” online .pdf file is about 90 pages. You of course don’t need to print it off, but it helps quite a bit, and I don’t feel wasteful because I have referred to it many times in the weeks leading up to my leaving. I recently organized my Power of Attorney papers, 6 pages, needing at least 6 copies each…it starts to add up.

They don’t tell you upon applying that they will sort of string you along pretty much until the day that you leave and perhaps even longer. Only telling you exactly what they think you need to know in that particular moment. And in all of the things that they tell you, not one of them has the answers to the questions that friends/family/random acquaintances are asking.

They don’t tell you EXACTLY what you need to pack. Sure they give you a suggested packing list, but I need strict guidelines. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate the list that they have given me, but I really just wish that someone that had just left Zambia was standing over my shoulder as I loaded up my bags and said “yes” and “no” to all of my questions. I know that I will over pack, but I feel like if there was a list that said “Bring the following items and nothings else…” it would be much more helpful for me.

I know that figuring these things out and feeling through all of the confusion is part of the Peace Corps allure, which is why they don’t get me too flustered. But there are things that they don’t tell you that are starting to get me flustered as my time in the states winds down. The biggest of which being that they also don’t tell you how hard it will be to say goodbye to the people that you love. I leave in 20 days! Sometime in the next 20 days I am going to have to say goodbye to some very important people. The very idea of this makes me immediately burst out into tears. In fact, just writing these words makes my eyes well up.

I have already said goodbye to a good friend from high school who has managed to keep in touch with me through the years. At my time of graduation in 2004 I would have told you that this would have been an incredibly unlikely combination when held under the same light as some of my other friends from high school who I now know nothing about. I imagine that it wasn’t as hard for him as it was for me…I mean he isn’t the one who is about to leave the country. He is great because whenever the two of us are home at the same time we make absolute sure to see one another, even if we haven’t so much as shot one another a text in the last 6 months. I feel like those connections are sometimes the best ones…him and I have an understanding.

A few weeks ago I also said goodbye to my best friend from high school. Her life is so beautiful and busy now it is hard to imagine that she will miss me much. She has this incredible husband and an even more amazing daughter now that takes up all of her time…as they should. And if having a loving family wasn’t good enough she also gets to travel the world along side the two people that she loves most in the world cheering on her basketball playing husband. I actually look forward to finding out what this Peace Corps adventure will do for our friendship. I just told someone earlier today that it isn’t as if we wouldn’t be friends, because we have been through so much together already, a few years in different parts of the world isn’t gonna change that. I am excited to read the letters that will get exchanged between the two of us in the years to come as we experience new cultures from various parts of the world!

Last weekend was a big weekend for goodbyes, as they will be from here on out. I had to say goodbye to my favorite couple from college. I ran cross-country and track with both of them and roomed with her our sophomore year of college. Our senior year of college her and I sort of fell out of touch, but she was still always there. Such an amazing person who has not an evil bone in her body. Everything that she does has purpose and I have always held her in very high regard. That was my Saturday night goodbye. Yuck.

Sunday however was much harder. On Sunday I had to say goodbye to what has become a second family throughout the last six years. It has hard to know what kind of impact dating someone will have on your life, but if you get a good one, usually a good “in-laws” so to speak come along with that. And then if you are really lucky that good family will take you in and adopt you as their own, regardless of your relationship status with their son. I have grown to love each and every one of them as if they were my own, brother, sister, parent or niece in my time with them. It would be really hard for me to ever be able to express to them how much their friendship, acceptance, and love of me has meant. They have always let me back into their family no questions asked, even after I had done negative things concerning the overall emotional well-being of their son. I hope that in some small way these people know that all of their small gestures of kindness and even better acts of love in these past years will never be forgotten. I love you all.

This weekend I venture back to “Hastings America” to say my goodbyes to friends met through college. This is a visit that I am not looking forward to at all. The tears that will be cried in those 48 hours are many…I feel like I should start drinking water now to save up for such things. Saying goodbye to the town of Hastings itself is a sad thought. I have been through so much there and it has seen so much of me. It is so peculiar to think about the 18 year old Maggie that first said hello to Hastings, a day after her 18th birthday, and then compare her to the 23 year old Maggie that will be saying goodbye to Hastings. Makes me appreciate growing up and not growing young. Thank goodness for mistakes, no matter how big they may have been. They all led me to this point right here.

So I guess right now if the Peace Corps called and asked if there was something that I really needed help with this writing is what I would answer with. But to all of you who I don’t get to say goodbye to please know that I will miss you and you are just as apart of this adventure as I myself am. You all lead me to the point that I am at today. So many of you were incredibly important people if even for a fleeting moment in time. You all shaped my world into the reality that I now live in. I am glad for this.

I thought about one of my favorite Sufi poems which says: “God long ago drew a circle in the sand exactly around the spot I am standing now. I was never not going to come here, this was never not going to happen.” –Elizabeth Gilbert

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