Life as an expat has many advantages but, like all lifestyles, there are drawbacks as well. One of these is the transient nature of many relationships formed. People are always coming and going. It's like, as soon as you get close to someone or build a bond, they are off to their next phase in life. I've been to more farewell parties here than any other kind of social event.
I've talked before about my inability to say goodbye and let go. Living here has been a challenge in that regard, not only because it's a constant fact of life, but also because the bonds here are formed at an accelerated pace so you're so much closer to the people you've known for several months than you would be anywhere else.
My first goodbye was beyond emotional, I cried and sobbed and thought i couldn't stand another one. I made a vow to myself that I'd only form relationships with people who were around for six months or longer, but I soon realized that issuing such limitations would prevent me from encounters with truly amazing people.
Instead, I changed myself, or I should say, something within me changed. Somewhere along the way, my subconscious accepted the situations that these situations will occur and I stopped seeing someones departure as a loss but looked upon it with new perspective.
In some ways, one could even say I've become numb or cold. I, of course, am sad when i lose a good friend to the US, Europe, or another part of Asia, but I no longer feel depressed about it. I'm almost completely unaffected. I spend time with my friend while they're still here, I attend their going away party, and when they leave I simply move on to the next friend.
I think that this lifestyle is actually a test of bonds, whether they are real or just formed out of convenience of being an expat. In the "real world" maintaining close relationships is much more difficult, and if my expat relationships can withstand that, I know that they were based on something more than being thrown into a crazy world together.
This outlook has also been beneficial for me in how I approach my relationships with people, both abroad and in Hanoi. I have a habit of caring too much, of trying too hard, of getting too attached and all of these factors can result in my being disappointed and hurt. I was at a going away party on Saturday night and realized that the guest of honor is probably someone I'll never see again. We may stay in touch with the odd facebook message or comment, but apart from that I don't see the friendship transitioning into the real world. It made me realize that if I am so nonchalant about people's departures that I should just stop worrying and thinking about their time here so much. Not spend so much time and energy on caring about stupid things and just concentrate on the experience and person as a whole. If there is a future past Hanoi, then it'll be there regardless, and if there's not then why should I even care, I'll never see them again.
I was told by a very wise man (ha) that leaving and saying goodbye gets easier every time. I pegged him as stoic and de-attached and thought he could have no idea what he was talking about, that I wasn't like that. I saw this weekend that he was right, and that I have evolved and that this is yet another part of the expat experience that I've embraced and will take with me on my subsequent journeys.