The Good in Goodbye
That’s it; that’s how it is; everyone standing around as if just out of the pool, drying off, standing around, that’s it, standing, talking, shuffling back and forth on the deck of the present before the boat slowly pulls away into the future. Because it hurts to say goodbye, to pull your body out of the warm water, to step out of the pocket of safety, clinging to what you knew, or what you thought you knew about yourself and others. – The Party by Jason Shinder
As always, the poem suffices.
After having spent twenty-seven days plunged deep into the depths of a Spanish immersion program held in the heart of Salamanca, I have traversed two whole continents to find myself back home. In a city of pale grey as opposed to sandy-hued tones, I’m experiencing a severe case of ‘jet lag’: alas, not the definitionally congruent kind which deals with time and the drowsiness, but more the kind that makes one feel as if they’ve literally ‘lagged’ their reality to replace it with distant places, faces and names that now – when one is back ‘home’ – seem so surreal.
Did it actually happen? The level of familiarity I feel towards my home and the way I can traipse around the house without a second thought leads me to doubt whether I really had been away. Same goes to the way I can walk through the streets of my neighbourhood without subliminally tracing the steps of cobblestoned Salamanca. The rush of familiarity always pushes aside the momentary reality of being distanced from what you always knew, and I guess the Spanish colors, memories, tastes and sounds are no longer pulsating but rather vibrating in my mind. Which is beautiful, because it means I remember; it means it happened.
Now I’m at the stage where I’m coming to terms with the fact that I’ve experienced a different reality which consequently will be affecting my normal reality. Obviously, this is leading me to draw constant parallels between my experience there and my experience here, and teaching me how to merge my experiences to form a better ‘me’; and thus, through such I am finding the good in goodbye. I grew to love writing more significantly than ever before during my stay in Salamanca, what with the prolificness-friendly quietude of the general ambience and the support of incredibly passionate mentors and friends. I’ve also learnt how to craft a better poem and a better introduction to a story, as well as the true importance of quality over quantity: now, I am no longer afraid to experiment with minute works of flash fiction because if things as brief as Spanish ‘greguerías’ can contain a linguistic beauty that makes one shudder, what can’t? But more importantly than the essence of writing itself, I’ve also learnt about the cathartic nature writing has on me, as a person, and how harnessing the ability leads me to maintain a calmer state of mind. A large majority of this was thanks to the quiet nooks and crannies in which I had the honor to work, which included places such as my (grill-less!) windowsill, a quaint fairy-tale garden called ‘El Huerto’ and, on my penultimate night, a long stretch of benches that faced the setting sun. With my metaphorical backpack on I am ready to find such a picturesque location in the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong; an endeavour I have never tried before, but thanks to España, I am now.
But despite all this mish-mash about discovering oneself, the most significant factor to the discovery lies in the people you meet. Throughout my stay in Salamanca, I had the ultimate pleasure of being with 54 awesome individuals – as well as many wonderful teachers – with whom I weaved the tapestry of our summer. As always, the farewell was heart-wrenching… the idea of realizing that a photograph was a last, or the reality of watching whole sets of students driving away at 3.15AM, 4.15AM, then 5.45AM… all I can say in the briefest of explanations is that there were a lot of tears, a lot of hugs, and a lot of cross-continental promises. One thing that especially impacted me about the goodbye was the proportion of good memories made on that night; it is mesmerizing to see how an end elicits a gratitude that one shows when they know they will not see another again. The general ambience of goodwill and memory-sharing is the most heartfelt of camaraderie, and with such a goodbye is made more into a celebration than mourning for a loss. When I found myself on the 5.45 bus on the way to the airport in Madrid, more often than not I saw myself smiling in the night as opposed to crying with a contorted expression. The final handshakes, embraces, giggles, inside joke reveries and the like were so perfectly choreographed, I could not have asked for a better ending that would have left a greater impact on my heart.
So goodbyes, despite what one may believe, aren’t always so bad. I think my month in Spain has truly taught me the truth of this value, a truth I wish to carry on later in life; and as I mentioned in one of my previous posts, Spain is a country that remembers.
Thus, I know that although I now sit on the 26th floor in a city called Hong Kong, I will keep Spain in my mind – and vice versa.