Monday, September 24, 2012

Saying the G-Word: My last week in the United States

This week I have seen many friends, co-workers and family before I head off to Washington, D.C. and then to Senegal, West Africa next week. Strangely, many of them have not said my least favorite word “goodbye” to me. I’m sure I have mentioned to most of them how silly I thought it was that friends and family warned me there were going to cry and have told them back what a happy experience I wanted this to be. Not sad or with tears. I am sure when looking back at these days I will not be saying to myself   “I wish people would have cried more” and that there will be plenty days in Senegal that I will cry enough for all of them combined. Save the tears for when they are needed, trust me, I will need them.
I understand that having a friend or family member leave is unsettling, but in this day and age of electronics, internet and cell phones, communicating across the world is as easy as ever. I have friends all over the globe that are on Facebook and with Skype I can ‘call’ them when we happen to be online at the same time. Handy, right? Unless you aren’t well versed in things technological, like my mom.

If anyone asks me what they can do or get me before I leave, I have simply replied with be happy I am going to do what I have wanted to and please don’t cry. As simple and priceless as this is, I know it is much harder and complicated as that, especially for my mom. She has known forever that I am going to the Peace Corps and I have prodded her to learn how to email and use Skype but still has not learned on her own. I grew up in a small rural town with 300 people, close to the dark ages some say (that some be me) but there is a 20,000 person town nearby. I’m hoping that she will read this by my sending my blog posts to her email that we have the chance to set up. I have warned how expensive it is to send things (medium sized flat rate USPS box being around $60-70 US) it would be much easier to email and Skype, which are both free.

Changing habits and learning new things is more difficult in action than in theory. It’s always a good idea to work towards the better but feels impossible whether you have a support group or not and no matter how small of a change you are trying to make. I’m sure in Senegal I will have many more hang-ups than I ever thought possible. 

I do have to say having a 2-year old say "buh-bye" in the sweetest voice ever does make just throw up my hands and puts me right where my friends are. There is some strange part of me that is glad they are sad to see me go, but know that I will have only more to share with them from my travels. 
“After a while you learn the subtle difference between holding a hand and chaining a soul and you learn that love doesn’t mean leaning and company doesn’t always mean security. And you begin to learn that kisses aren’t contracts and presents aren’t promises, and you begin to accept your defeats with your head up and your eyes ahead, with the grace of a woman, not the grief of a child. And you learn to build all your roads on today because tomorrow’s ground is too uncertain for plans and futures have a way of falling down in mid-flight. After a while you learn that even sunshine burns if you get too much, so you plant your own garden and decorate your own soul instead of waiting for someone to bring you flowers. And you learn that you really can endure, you really are strong, you really do have worth, and you learn and you learn. With every goodbye, you learn.”  -Veronica Shoffstal 
I can say the best way I have learned to say good bye, is from a dear friend of mine that works for Kooza for Cirque du Soleil. He has worked the entirety of the show and has seen many faces come an go. As a traveling production they are constantly moving and on the road, seemingly for years. I bawled when I last saw him and now know how he felt. It's hard when others are sad to see you leave. His words of wisdom..."I will see you again in another part of the world", which is so true. I hope to see many other people I have met through traveling or working various places. Or in my best friend's case she will be moving due to her husband being in the military. And of course this post would not be complete without my favorite E.E. Cummings poem.

Shoffstal V. with every goodbye you learn. Available at: Accessed July 29, 2012.

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