A grey crate with seventeen 10 cent Israeli Agorot coins, one 1/4 Jordanian dinar coin, a small battery, and a white cloth – made in China – for covering challot, the braided bread Jews eat on Friday nights and holidays.
When people leave a home for good, they always leave a random selection of items behind. Things that were discarded for lack of importance. Things that were too good to be thrown away, yet not dear enough to be kept or passed on. Or maybe simply things that were inevitably forgotten in the rush of the last few hours before leaving no matter how well you plan in advance.
Ten years ago I left the home of my parents to live in a different country. Well, at the time I didn’t know yet that I was moving out permanently, so, of course, I left lots of things behind. Since then, I have said goodbye to so many people, so many places. I remember the first time it happened at the end of a four month long study program, during which I had made a whole busload of new friends and lived through an insane emotional rollercoaster fitting for my 18 year old adolescent self. I was devastated. I cried my eyes out the entire last day of the program. I couldn’t imagine a reality where I wouldn’t spend my days and nights with these people. I was sure I would never be as happy and fulfilled again.
The truth is that it does get easier with time. You become less vulnerable to the goodbyes and less emotional about the endings.
I did, of course, “get over it,” as they say. I was happy again. I made new friends, and kept in touch with some of the old ones. I lived through more incredible highs and lows, and I often said goodbye. The truth is that it does get easier with time. You become less vulnerable to the goodbyes and less emotional about the endings. Partly because experience has shown you that with every door that closes, a window of future opportunity flies wide open for you somewhere; and partly because what you cried about most was in fact not the friendships or memories, but the person that you were during those encounters and that person you are now leaving behind. As you get older, you begin to understand that nothing is lost, that your personality is made up of all of those moments.
At this point, it’s been years since I cried about someone’s departure. Sure, it’s sad when my parents’ visit comes to an end or when friends move away, but in this day and age, it’s not like you can really never see each other again. Thanks to the internet and smartphones you can be in touch every day, all day if you want!
This was true for me until about three weeks ago. I was sitting on an evening bus after a long day at work and then a driving lesson in the nearest city, which is an hour bus ride away from my home and my family in each direction. I was listening to music and looking out the window. The last few days had been exhausting – the end of the year was nearing at the academic institution where I work, and we had all been busy preparing for the final week of some forty young Israelis, Palestinians, Jordanians, and international students who spent the past few month studying together. Quite suddenly, I was hit with the realization that I would soon have to see off this exceptional group of young people that I had had the privilege to get to know, who were so committed to a better, more peaceful future for the Middle East. My tears started to flow right there on the bus and essentially, did not stop for the next few days. I cried when I was helping to clean out the students’ dorms. I cried the morning of their last day. I cried when they were leaving. I cried for the rest of that day, and the next day as well. For the first time in many, many goodbyes, I allowed myself to feel the sadness. I let myself fall apart at the thought of routines changing.
For some reason, I have often been the person to clear out rooms after the residents left. It’s tedious work, sifting through personal things people deem not necessary or worthy anymore, some of it treasures I need to deal with now and some of it really just utter garbage. It has always been just an annoying but necessary task for me.
So, a grey crate with some change, a battery, and some religious paraphernalia – that’s what I found today as I leafed through the abandoned student dorms.
This time, the random stuff affected me. It was as if they were leaving again. Of course, I am less sad today, and I will be even less sad next week, and the month thereafter. The practices of everyday life always take care of that.
Opening myself up again to this flood of emotions – perhaps it was silly. After all, I am an adult. I’ve done this before, and life goes on, right? But it felt good. It made me feel that I had been part of something special. And it was part of a much needed sense of closure.
You can’t fall apart like that every time someone leaves your immediate day-to-day life. It’s just not practical; you have to be able to cope with your emotions in a more composed way. But on occasion, when something truly special comes to an end, I believe it is acceptable and healthy to let your feelings take over. It will give you an opportunity to connect to yourself and others, to be human.