I am terrible at saying goodbye. Even as a young child, when my parents used to go to out for the evening (leaving me with a babysitter) I would cling to their legs or chase them out the door. I don't like being left. I also don't like leaving because I constantly wonder about what I am leaving behind, what I am missing out on.
Being an expat, saying goodbye (on a regular basis) to the people you care about is par for the course. I mentioned that (mostly) everyone you meet out here has an expiration date, and you just have to deal with it. My ability to say goodbye has not improved, so when one of my favorite people in Hanoi (and ever) left this week, I fell apart. The weeks leading up to his departure, all of my other friends were cast aside in favor of him. I wanted to drink in as many last moments as I could.
That's another thing about being an expat that I mentioned...the people you meet out here are different than the ones you meet back home. the expats or the nomadic travelers don't fit into the stereotypical molds of whatever country the come from, they break the taboo, cross boundaries, and make you look at the world in a different light.
My friend, who just left, is an example of that and has left me with something very special, something I can't even really put into words. Let me stumble around and try:
I grew up in a very well educated, worldly family who all hold very different viewpoints that they are equally passionate about... so it's no surprise that nothing excites me more than a compelling argument or a thought provoking discussion. I like to read, I like to argue about philosophy and politics, I love hypothetical and "what is the meaning of" questions. For the most part, it seems, I don't engage in such antics with the people I surround myself with. Maybe it's my fault, or maybe I've been shut down one too many times by people who thought my provocative questions were "a little much" or I'd be told "that's enough, Alice," "ok I get it." Those words are always such a blow because I want to think and be heard, just like i want to hear others thoughts and outlooks. To me, that's what makes the world interesting place.
On first glance, my friend seemed almost stereotypical American (apart from the fact that he's lived all over the world) but upon further inspection I soon discovered that my first impression couldn't have been any more off base. He and I spent hours upon hours debating everything from "how do you think time works?" to philosophers, world theories, politics and "hot button" issues, why people get married and lots and lots of talks about books. No topic was off limits and never once was I told "that's enough"...more like encouraged to go on and have my views either challenged or agreed with.
Not only did this friendship result in constant mental stimulation but it made me feel smart and start valuing different things. It made me not care if I didn't look pretty that day (I stopped wearing make up.) It gave me a realization that there were far too many times that I took the easy way out, played 'dumb" and sold myself short intellectually. It is more apparent now that I need the constant state of mental ablaze, that I can't-and won't-be able to settle for anything less. Most importantly, it made me truly believe that I had MUCH more to offer than I have been previously allowing people (and myself) to see.
So thank you for that, and I miss you.