Saying goodbyes

15 04 2011

It’s an occupational hazard when you move to the other side of the world that you’re going to have to say goodbye to close friends and family without knowing how long it is going to be until you next see them, and also that a visit isn’t as simple as jumping in the car and buggering off for a couple of hours.

Whether you’re visiting them, or them you, your last conversation with them is bound to be a heart and gut-wrenching moment. And we’ve had more than our fair share of them in March.

First was a visit from some old work colleagues from the UK. Both had recently retired and decided to splash out on a five-week campervan trip around NZ, stopping with us for a couple of days. It was lovely to see them and be part of their wonderful journey. When it came to say goodbye it was a happy moment as the skipped off on the next leg of their adventure.

Next it was a relatively unplanned visit from our best friend from the US. She’d been called away short-notice on a trip to Melbourne and immediately identified the opportunity to hop over the Tasman. For the two days she was here she wandered around in awe of the place, marvelling at the sights Wellington has to offer. As an emotional person, her farewell was teary, but full of promises to try and make it back (and working hard on the Melbourne customer to try and wangle another trip there 😉 ).

Carrying on the trend of the goodbyes getting more emotional, my parents made a two-week trip out here. Despite our best attempts to get them out and about to see something of the country, they were quite happy mooching around near home, chilling out or catching the bus into town for a wander. We did manage to get them to the South Island for all of one afternoon as they did a day trip on they ferry, but they seemed content to not do much really.

As they were leaving during the day and midweek, I was going to be at work when they left. I’d gone to a souvenir shop the day before to pick out a present for them to take home, and also one to post to my in-laws. When the shop assistant enquired about what I was looking for (after I’d wandered around the shop several times, seemingly in a daze, I was almost reduced to a blubbering mess as I tried to explain I wanted something lightweight and easy to pack, but personal too. The thought of my mum leaving was already sending me into a chasm of self-pity.

I finally settled on two pictures – one colour one of Island Bay, the other a dark and moody shot of Owhiro Bay. I asked my mum to choose one and mail the other to the in-laws, hopefully giving them a window onto our new world.

Our goodbyes were completed the night before they left. Without my husband to comfort me (he was still at work) I sobbed myself to sleep. I tweeted and texted in the hope of receiving comforting messages in return. My best friend in the UK and my husband both obliged, but a virtual hug falls somewhat short of the real thing.

Now I’ve lived away from home for nearly 20 years (I shouldn’t say that so loud, should I?!) so my mum and I have shared many a goodbye. I don’t know if it’s got harder as we get older, or as the gap between us widens. But it most certainly seems to get more painful each time.

When we decided to move to NZ, we’d already left the UK and had been living in the US for two years, therefore feeling like we’d already made the break so adding a few thousand more miles would be a piece of cake. It was. In the main anyway.

Family and friends are always the hardest part of any emigration attempt. Some will accept your dreams, others will reject them. But moving here felt right for us. The attractions NZ held, and still does hold, fit with our goals and aspirations, our needs and desires. It would be even more perfect if we could teleport our families to join us.

In the meatime, until that lotto win that will allow us the funds to do that, we have to remain stoic and strong and face the fact that painful goodbyes are part and parcel of our new life in NZ. Whether we want them or not. We chose to move here. This is probably the only consequence of that decision. Although it’s not a small one and it should not be underestimated.

For some people, that may turn into a dealbreaker. The homesickness driver that makes them realise that they can’t bear to be so far from those that love and support you unconditionally. For others, it will merely be a consequence of one of the decisions they’ve made as they weave their tapestry of life.

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