How do you say farewell? Is it easy to detach oneself from the multitude of friends and move on seamlessly to the next group? Does separation hurt?
Recently I had to say "Goodbye". Farewells don't come easy to me. Like a money plant, which entwines itself to its supporting stick, I found myself deeply enmeshed in my former habitat. I was attached at various levels. And to my dismay, I found it extremely difficult to uproot myself.
Growing up, we went to the same school from kindergarten to Class 10. The friends, the foes, the teachers, the class rooms were all known. As kids, growing at a rapid pace, our minds were very impressionable. We had "best friends for life" and we had pacts that were supposed to last till death. We promised eternal commitment to each of our best friends. And then, one fine day an opportunity came by. A more esteemed school selected us to join them. The logical decision was to enroll. And we did. But emotions did a Volta-face. I found myself shedding copious tears for two weeks. It was the first biggest decision of my immature life. I realized that I was not good at saying goodbyes. Knowing your weaknesses is a powerful tool for self improvement.
The sad-two-weeks later, the new school engulfed us. The new school mates looked at us queerly. The new teachers didn't know what to do with "two" of "me". I found every opportunity to crib and complain to my mother, when I returned home.
My mom squarely placed the blame on my deciding shoulders.
Having nowhere else to turn, I turned back at the new place. I found a bunch of new girls who were just as out-of-place as us. Then I noticed someone smile at me. I noticed a teacher's approval of my homework. I noticed they had a debate team where I could join. Suddenly, it wasn't all so bad. But the process was prolonged and painful. I suffered abnormally from being detached from my Alma mater. The new school, in all its glories, had a tough time wowing me.
The lesson I learnt served me well. I could not move on easily. I made a mental note to myself and decided not to move on, if I could help it. But life teases you in unfathomable ways. What you fear most, comes to haunt you often.
The next journey was leaving Calcutta. I never realized as I left my dear old Calcutta, that I would really never return. To this day, I realize I never bought my return ticket. Obviously the cycle repeated. Once in Pilani (Rajasthan), I spent a whole year coping with my "move". Unsettled, uneasy, I moved through the campus, looking for signs of familiar things. But there were none. In many ways, that first year, I missed out so much goodness that was around me. I played catch-up once out of my mourning. In my head, Calcutta was the best place on earth. I firmly and indignantly countered my friends when they openly criticized some of its real faults. The love for my home, increased day by day as my separation from it grew. Even today, I find myself bristle inside when people point out the pollution, the grime, the detriment of my favorite place. But now I don't react like a teenager anymore. I smile and ignore. I can't bring myself to agree, even as I know that they are right.
From Pilani to Los Angeles, the journey was like the proverbial "crossing of seven seas". I spent the whole flight weeping over Singapore airlines ice creams, and then another six months trying to run back home. As my six months of allocated depression was coming to an end, I noticed other trapped students. One of them, who was trying to flee back to China, became my best friend. Together we decided to endure it, till we could go back.
Life took a better turn. My old memories, vibrant as they were, gave a little room for the new ones I was growing. Los Angeles was amazing and for a freshly arrived "desi", it appeared glorious. My eyes widened at the sight of Brad Pitt outside the Westwood red carpet event, my taste buds danced at the medley of food options available, my heart widened at the friendliness of people around me and my mind boggled over the prospects available. I even found some Bengalis in my University but strangely they were unlike anything I expected. I was a newbie, brimming with love for Kolkata, while they were seasoned Americans. For them, Kolkata was just another place.
From University to professional life, the jump was huge. I remained a student in mind , struggling with professional etiquette. Student life and work life are vastly different and it takes quite a while to get into the groove of a working woman.
Just a week ago, I had to say goodbyes. To some of the best colleagues and friends I had grown over time. I realized, it was harder than I thought. So much experience in moving on in the past, did not help my cause at all. Like a tree that groans vehemently at being uprooted, I tried holding on and letting go at the same time. The toughest part was bidding farewell to the familiar faces, the people I laughed and joked with, those from whom I learnt immensely and those that constantly encouraged me. Finding a great working environment is a sheer luck!
It was very tough holding back the tears as I hugged my friends goodbye. The day when I had to leave all of it behind, hurriedly arrived. As I left my old place, I had to force myself to walk away without looking back.
The social media, the emails, the chat groups, the SMS-es keep me going. The period of separation and grief have taken over again. As I ruminate through my ordeal, the new place beckons me. The old memories glow like beacons of light, showing me what I will be missing.
But like it happened previously, will my struggles give way to a bright new beginning?