I can’t sleep. Well, I was sleeping and then I woke up and now I’m here. I started looking through pictures on my sister’s Facebook of her 21st birthday and Prague which led to more old pictures and more old locations and for the first time I really let myself miss places and things. Usually what I miss the most is people and the things I miss are because they remind me of a person, not because I miss the place itself. But today I let myself miss all the past things I’ll never get back and all the old addresses that are still memorised; their usefulness long gone. I wasn’t homesick. I was giving it finality that I had reserved and refused to let go.
This is my last month in South Korea. And I’ve said goodbye many times but I have never intentionally RAFTed. One of my dearest friends, and TCK mother herself, has encouraged me to do it this time. I was going through the motions of it, quite reluctantly at times, until those pictures brought me back. I didn’t realise that saying goodbye to here meant saying goodbye to all I didn’t say goodbye to before. How’s that for helping you fall asleep?
I never realised how grateful I was to be looking at pictures of old apartments I’ve lived in or restaurants I loved going to. Bookshelves I used to have, paintings that I had created and hung in my room. Shower curtains and old clothes that have long sense been lost in a move. Pictures of friends on walls. Desk lamps and coffeemakers. Spatulas that were passed down from friend to friend. Some of these insignificant items do make it across oceans. This morning I was putting on my socks and seeing ‘Quecha’ on it made me incredibly introspective. Socks, people, socks! I have never had any emotional connection to socks before. These things I don’t ever set out to take pictures of intentionally. They’re there in the background and most days I don’t even think twice about the fact they’re gone. Nothing like sleep deprivation, socks and Sydney to convince you that my friend is right when she says all those things about how to leave well.
I’m packing up these ‘things’ in my classroom and I have so many. My students love this. They especially love my green classroom sign that says ‘Grade One’. Why do you still have this Miss L, if you are a second grade teacher?’ The first few times they asked they looked confused when I explained that it was from my first classroom as a teacher instead of a student in China. Another item they love to ask to touch is my tiny miniature glass fox that Amy got for me. We each have a different animal and seeing that Venetian glass makes my heart so happy knowing that it is a memory I share in time and space with someone else. I have many of these items, maybe too many… Scraps of paper with notes written are my biggest weakness ! But my students are slowly understanding. Now they’re connecting why these small pieces are so dear to my heart. They show off their artwork that they made me last year to students who are new this year. They plan our farewells, even to the hour I am at the airport and I will check in my bags and we will all go to Lotteria and get Shake Shake fries together . (One of them even coincidentally has the same domestic flight as me). We hold hands and run and skip and cry and smile and laugh because soon it will be the last time for many of them.
We work to keep the places and things we can close to our hearts, if we can’t have them close physically. Nothing changes, except what has to.