I’ve never been good at goodbyes. How can anyone be good at them, really? One goodbye never makes the next easier. What I struggle with most in saying farewell is how much emotion to put into it. Some people break down sobbing, or at least tear up and give that long, emotional gaze to show the loss they feel at parting ways.
I’m not one of those people.
It’s not that I don’t care or that I’m not affected, but the gravity of the goodbye does not break me when I’m still in a person’s presence. Int the moment it feels like I could just as easily see them later that afternoon. It’s once I’m on my way and the separation is tangible that the emotion wells. It’s only now when I’m on the bus, watching the city that’s been my home for the last two years stream by the window for the last time, that the tears start to fall and it feels real. This is it. This is goodbye.
It’s been a strange mix of feelings, but most emotion has been muted by the stress and whirlwind of responsibilities to wrap up my life in Korea. I feel relieved knowing that my time in here is coming to a close, yet the end is bittersweet.
I walked out of school today without a soul noticing my departure. No coworkers said goodbye, nor did they ever really acknowledge my existence. But yesterday my favorite students gave me tearful hugs, a homemade cake, and the most adorable, heartfelt letters I’ve ever received. The fact that I made a difference in these few students’ lives makes all the hell I went through at this school worth it.
I passed by my local “red bean cake man” this afternoon and stopped for one last bag of my favorite street food. The man doesn’t speak a word of English but he always jabbers away at me in Korean while I respond in English and broken Korean; neither of us ever really understand each other but it’s a fun interaction nevertheless. I somehow conveyed to him that I’m leaving and he pointed at the printed phone number and made hand signals for me to call him. “Really! Please call me!” he called out (in Korean). I suppose we would continue our same old two language conversation of just talking unintelligibly at each other. The thought of it made me smile.
I had dinner dates with past coteachers, farewell parties, and final sleepovers with my best friends. These people are what made it all worthwhile and what I’ll treasure most about my time in Korea. It’s strange to think that I may never see them again but the world is a small place and I like to think that it’s just a ‘see-ya later’.
Someday when the dust has settled I know I’ll look back on my time in Korea with fondness. It was undoubtedly one of the biggest challenges of my life, but I’m so grateful for the experience and proud of myself for seeing it through. And I’ll also be forever grateful to Korea because it’s allowed me to save enough money to finally start my next big adventure and live my dream: A year (or more) long trip around the world! I’ll share my itinerary for that in a couple of days, but for now it’s time to process the goodbyes and spend some time at home with friends, family, and Mexican food.