I’ve always believed that in every person there lies a place. A city, a country.
And when I visit these places, I look for my people in them. I look for their cadence in the way the city moves and I look for the city’s heartbeat in their pulse, in the way their eyes look for what to call familiarity and in the kind of outdoors they say is healing. In the way they process, and the way they imbibe.
And for those of us who belong to more than one place, more than two even, it gets a little confusing.
I’d said to my friend a while back that I was afraid that leaving this place behind felt like my world was contracting. Because every six months I would book a ticket to defy the encumbering feeling that my boundaries lie in what is before my eyes and I could soar the skies to mark a wider territory. But now, it felt like my world was quickly encroaching upon me, like its dimensions were shrinking. And there was nothing in my life that frightened me more.
I was wrong, though.
The other day as I sat amidst faces lacquered in colours that scaled possible realms of natural skin tones, arched eyebrows tweezed silly and layers over layers of clothes huddled on skeleton frames because fashion, I laughed. This was never me.
I was always a bystander in this circus. But calling out the idiosyncrasies of this place had carved a niche apart for those of us who always cleared passport control under the ‘Other Nationalities’ board. Even 22 years later, we would always be standing in a queue under that board.
So was that my cadence? Was that my heartbeat? Was that my pulse? People got entire countries, states and cities and I got one ugly neon green board.
I wasn’t scared to leave behind a definition so narrow. Two words could not and have not been able to capture my essence, or more like curtail it.
What scared me was not what I leave behind but what lay ahead of me.
My friend (yeah, the very same one who doles out all those pieces of wisdom I write about under the ‘my friend recently/once told me’ tag!) said to me the other day that it isn’t our darkness but our light that scares us. It isn’t what we leave behind or the bleak sense of what lies ahead but the immense possibility of what could lay ahead that frightens us. Of course, as always, she is right.
It wasn’t so much the immensity of what I was leaving behind as the grandeur of the blank canvas at the other end which petrified me. When you aren’t tied down to one escape called home, your escape could go anywhere, your journey could go anyplace, and all of it is so unknown, it’s frightening.
Today, I went on my last tour of the country. I was taken around the area I spent over thirteen years in. I remember how I broke when we moved out of the home I’d pretty much grown up in. But then we made a home here, a better one.
Going back there, I was gripped with nothing but joy. There was no sorrow for what went by. No pain for what I couldn’t hold on to. There was nothing but love for the life that I lived and happiness that I’ve moved on but it still remains as beautiful as it always was.
So maybe, that’s what goodbyes feel like. The real ones. The scary ones. The ones you are afraid to say.
You say them anyway.
And maybe one day, eight years later, you will find the good in the goodbye.
.. And the pain you feel is a different kinda pain.