Sometimes it’s the small things that make reality bite. For me it was a hug. From someone I get hugs from all the time. But not all hugs are the same, are they?

I’m on the bus to Heathrow, bound for four weeks in Zimbabwe volunteering at an animal orphanage. Yesterday, as my sister left the pub after we shared drinks with a few friends, we said our goodbyes and hugged. It wasn’t a casual au revoir type hug; it was a proper, tight, lovely, warm, meaningful hug. Suddenly I came crashing down to Earth with a bang. She’s worried for me and will miss me and that brings the reality of my trip into sharp focus for me. She talks, tells me to take care, all the usual things. She hugs me again. Tighter. She repeats this at least twice more. Shit. I’m about to cry. I make a crap, dismissive joke.

I really don’t like goodbyes, which means I have a tendency to not manage them particularly well. Before leaving work at the end of August to take my sabbatical leave, I spectacularly failed to say an important goodbye to a colleague. Sue and I had worked closely for the full year that I’d been doing the job; she was the administration team leader supporting me and my management team; I trusted her implicitly and relied on her professionalism, judgement, compassion and commitment all the time. I couldn’t have done the job without her. On top of this we got on really well, we had a great laugh too. I knew I’d miss her so much and was dreading the moment that required a proper goodbye, explaining how important she had been to me. I’m not good with emotions.

I gave Sue a thank-you-cum-goodbye card earlier in the week, but kept delaying the moment of actual goodbye – I had meetings and visits away from our office and would say “I’ll pop back in on my way home tomorrow to finish clearing out my in-tray, I’ll see you then”. In the end I was meant to do this on my last day too, but got held up in London and knew I wouldn’t make it back in time. I rang her to have a last chat and say goodbye. After my sabbatical I’m returning to a different role, so I won’t be working with Sue again.

I tried to say thank you and that I’d miss her but the words got stuck. Then a really weird noise came out of my throat and I had to hold the phone away from me for fear she might think I was being garrotted. I was crying like a child! Really big crying with noisy, struggling-to-breathe-properly type gasping to boot. In the end I did manage to say what I wanted to, but it took a while and I had to navigate the words carefully so as not to set myself off again! Sue was great, although she must have thought I was a complete nutter (to be fair, I think she already did). The fact is I’d spent so long trying not to acknowledge what was going to happen because I didn’t want to think about it, that in the end it all just came splurging out anyway, in an incredibly undignified manner. Very predictable really, but there’s nothing like surprising yourself with the inevitable from time to time.

I haven’t improved at goodbyes much since then, although I was a bit better this time. I’m a bit tearful as I write this sitting on the bus, but I have managed to keep it together – more or less – for the various goodbyes I’ve said over the last few days. I have a lot to look forwards to: new places, new people, a whole new experience, and loads of photo and blog opportunities! There’s also plenty I’ll be missing here in the UK; a friend is due to give birth on 5th November, my sister’s just got a new dog, my cat will miss our little routines. Life goes on wherever else you may be though, and it will all still be here when I get back. So now that I’m on my way, I’m losing some of the trepidation I had started to feel, and I’m relaxing into a slightly unfamiliar feeling of pure excitement.

There are just so many things my next post could be about!

3 Responses to “Goodbyes”

  1. Beautifully written as usual, made me feel slightly tearful myself! – have such exciting adventures, and take care xx Han

    • well you may not be good at goodbyes in person, but you are certainly articulate in writing them honey. i’m sure you’ll have an amazing time, look forward to seeing more pics and hearing all about it. big hugs xoxo

  2. You are a big softy really then!!?!? I didn’t cry at all… na uh… not one bit 😉 My eyes were just a little bit sweaty that day!

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