From October 13, 2012:
I lay in my childhood bed at home, looking up at the same white ceiling that hasn’t changed in the last 21 years. I turn and face the stacks of Baby Sitters Club books in one corner, then gaze over at the pictures of my best friends and I at high school junior prom pasted on my wall. The poster of New York City (with the twin towers) above my dresser, along with the magazine clippings of dancers and exotic cities taped to my closet remind me of the younger, restless me that was always looking for something more.
I can’t sleep, as I’m feeling especially contemplative and retrospective on this night. I’m throbbing with excitement for the next adventure (Singapore, via a 2 month layover in Portugal), apprehensive of the unknown, and nostalgic and sad for the impending goodbye. I’ve felt this many times in the last 10 years, and somehow, it’s always been in this bed, looking up at this ceiling which is, as of yet, unchanging. This spot has always been my starting point, my home base, my reset button. It’s home, which I suspect has less to do with the physical location, and more to do with the unwavering love that I always find with my family.
I’m closing this particular chapter of life in the States tomorrow. I do notice though: these closings and goodbyes are pretty commonplace for me. Since I was 11 months old, I’ve been waving goodbye to people I love from the deck of a boat, the rear view mirror of a car, or the window seat of a plane. Chalk it up to having intercontinental parents. Then marrying a man from across an ocean. And lots of traveling and making friends along the way.
It doesn’t make saying goodbye any easier - that moment of actual departure is always difficult. But I’ve come to rely on two things to help me get through it: 1. Usually, there’s a happy hello on the other end of the sad goodbye. One always precedes the other, but on the other hand, one always follows. 2. More often than not, I find myself reunited with those I love sooner than I think I will be. And this age of technology makes keeping in touch so much easier.
Because it’s a fact of this intercontinental life, and a consequence of having a serious case of wanderlust, I’ve tried to change the meaning of goodbye. In fact, I’ve decided to no longer say it at all. I’ve come to embrace “until next time.”
To the outsider, it seems like I keep running and spinning from one side of the globe to the other, going far away from people I love. But I see it as the opposite: maybe I’m spinning around the globe because each new place I visit makes the big world a little smaller. As I strip away the foreignness of each new city or town or village, and look deeper to see everything that’s similar, I realize our commonalities are much greater than our differences. My travel brings Fulton, Missouri and Delhi, India a little closer. My Filipina great aunt who still believes in witches, begins to exist in the same circle as my new friend, the scientist. Maybe I hope that if I spin fast enough, squeeze my eyes shut and grab on tight to everyone I love, I’ll defy the laws of the universe and somehow bring everyone closer together.
So, tomorrow, I will step on the plane, and settle into my seat, and take all this love from my parents, my brother, my oldest friends, my newest friends, my happiest memories from this latest USA chapter, and pull it all in nice and tight, ready to start a new round. I will generate my own weird version of centrifugal force with my spinning, creating that magic moment when worlds collide - if nowhere else, then in my heart.
“Perhaps we’ve become permanent expatriates- neither fish nor fowl, forever lost no matter our location. But this fluidity also means that we’re now like mermaids and centaurs- magic creatures who always know there’s another way.” Gina Hyams from EXPAT-Women’s True Tales of Life Abroad