Everyone knows, to put it simply, that saying goodbye sucks. After leaving Scotland in 2007 and having lived abroad ever since, it’s suffice to say that I have almost mastered the saddening task of saying farewell. It’s almost not such a big deal anymore. There’s actually a few tricks to make it feel more like a ‘see you in a bit’ kind of goodbye.
Firstly, don’t plan how you’re going to do it. In fact, rather pick an obscure nondescript location, like a bus stop on a bustling street filled with rush-hour traffic, or some back alley with adjoining lanes that you can quickly scamper down to prevent nosy neighbours catching you mid-tear flow. Not so long ago, I embraced my friend in a little lane behind our university, in a crowd of friends, next to a small antique market. As we said goodbye, his bag strap dug into my neck, and before I knew it the hug was over and he was on his way. With a quick glance back, and a smile, I knew I’d see him again soon. I almost always see good friends again. Another occasion that sticks out in my mind was when I left Taipei. It was the hottest day of the summer. The steam was actually rising off the ground, mingling with the dust particles and floating up towards my eyes. I could blame the waterfalls of tears that erupted from my eyes on the dust, but I’d be lying. I was absolutely distraught to be leaving Taiwan and all my amazing friends. I clung onto my friend desperately on the street outside our apartment and I think the taxi driver had to scoop me up and put me inside with a big packet of tissues nestled on my knees. My other friend came along with me and I cried the whole way to the airport. But then suddenly, when the moment actually came to hug her goodbye, we both just burst out laughing and high-five’d each other. I knew I would see her again.
In Chinese goodbye is zai jian 再見 which directly translates as ‘again see/meet’, aka see you again, we will meet soon. This is SO much better than our English ‘GOODBYE’. There is absolutely nothing good about saying bye, nothing at all. And even just a quick, simple ‘bye’ doesn’t work for me. I always say ‘see you soon’, because chances are, I will see you soon. It’s definitely gotten much easier over the years, and it helps if you just don’t think too much when it’s happening. I am prone to overthinking things, and usually in the last few hours leading up to my departure or a friend or family members departure, I will go all quiet and not be able to look anywhere except down at my hands for fear of a sneaky tear or ten hundred that might happen to slip out and roll down my cheek. Whenever I leave my family in Scotland, I usually can’t eat the last meal we share together. I just feel so sad. I’m trying to overcome this, but it’s tough. We have a ‘farewell ritual’ that consists of me giving them each a handwritten letter and the quickest hug and squeeze possible. However, I know that they will never stop waving until I am completely out of sight and through immigration. I squeeze the tears back into my eyes when I walk away from them and when I glance back, there they are, waving and grinning.
I think that’s what we have to start doing. Just make our farewells more casual. No dramatic tears, no airport scenes of falling onto the floor crying. More high fives, more laughter, more sneakily looking back and sticking out your tongue and winking. Life is too short to make a huge deal out of saying goodbye. And as the mighty Chinese would like to remind us, it’s not ‘goodbye’ it’s see you soon. It really is. So now, instead of dwelling on your impending departure or thinking about your departure 5 minutes after you’ve only just arrived (you know you do this), start living in the moment. Enjoy the remaining minutes you have with your loved ones instead of jumping ahead to the moment when you will need to leave them again. But when it is time to leave, laugh with them all the way to immigration or all the way to the train platform. Make it easier for both of you by doing something silly like doing a crazy dance from the window of the train as you glide off into the sunset, or throw them a paper aeroplane letter as you walk through immigration (just don’t get arrested!!). Keep it simple. Saying farewell doesn’t need to be a traumatic experience. And actually, it just means that you can get even more excited for when you next see this person. I might not be a fan of airport departures but I certainly love an airport arrival, and watching other peoples arrivals too. There’s something so romantic about it, even if there is no one there to collect you. I personally like pouncing on whoever is waiting for me. Be it my Dad, my Mum, a lover, my sister, a stranger (no, just kidding with that last one! Again, you don’t want to get arrested!).
Anyway, the point is, don’t over think it. You will see that person again because the Chinese say so, and you don’t argue with the Chinese, OK! Haha. No, but seriously, you don’t. They have 5,000 years of history, people. They know.
And so, on that note, I shall bid you farewell for now my beautiful friends, and to those who live across the oceans, I shall see you soon. 再見!
Photo by Gamy Wong