Last July, we said goodbye to Michigan.
Now I'm finding myself on the other side of the world, but facing similar feelings. With only 10.5 months here, we don't have nearly the history in ShenZhen that we did in Michigan, but that doesn't seem to be making it all that much easier to smile through the goodbyes.
I've been thinking lately about the importance of the manner in which we approach leaving. My life seems to involve a lot of leaving, and, if I have to do it, I want to make sure I do it well.
There's a sneaky little part of me which would like to simply not mention to our students or neighbors that we're leaving permanently...to let them just assume that we'll be back when school holiday is over. I could probably almost trick myself into viewing our upcoming plane trip as just that, a trip. Maybe, if we didn't tell anyone, they'd get used to our absence before they even realized its permanence and this would be much easier on everyone.
But a larger part of me is convinced that that's not a good way to take our leave. Giving out bad news isn't something I, or anyone, likes to do--but the people we've done life with here deserve fair warning.
Giving notice of our impending departure sure isn't the easy way out. It means we've been constantly bombarded with goodbye gifts and requests for photos and ways to contact us in the future. The schedule leading up to our departure is filled with myriad last suppers and each goodbye feels like it's tearing at only recently healed holes in my heart. We're trying to walk the fine line where we give thank you cards and goodbye gifts to the friends who have made life possible here, while insisting that they not run out shopping for us since our possessions are limited to what will fit within our luggage allotment.
My mom always said that it's the respectful children who cry for their parents whenever they're left in daycare, as it shows loyalty to mom and dad. If that's true, our students are respectful to the utmost, as all of our announcements of our upcoming departure are met with groans and whys and please stays. It's irresistibly endearing when a usually cool, quiet 16-year-old jumps out of their seat to shout, "We will miss you!" as you walk out the door after teaching your last class.
And they expect me not to break out into unprofessional tears in the hallway?
We're telling our friends here it's just a short plane trip to visit us in our new home--and they're, in turn, reminding us that it's just a short trip back to ShenZhen.
I'm so excited about our future. We have thrilling things to look forward to. But I believe that leaving well means that some mourning is acceptable and needful, even when, deep down, you're happy about where you're going.
I have no idea if or when we'll be back in China, but I'm so very glad we went.