One of the inevitable aspects of expatdom is a lot of hellos and goodbyes. Sometimes in a seemingly very short span of time.
The UAE, a country known for being majority expat in population, is an especially transient place. People come and go on a rotating basis, and after awhile you get used to saying goodbye. Or, more appropriately, “see you later,” because one of the things I’ve learned in living abroad is that the world is a very small place. Western expats are also almost unilaterally big travelers, which means even though you may never call the same town home again there’s a distinct possibility that you might meet up in Belgium for some brews in a few years, or maybe Tokyo for some sushi. It’s a little bit of comfort to the sometimes devastating reality that you say goodbye to some of the most amazing people you’ve ever met knowing full well that they’ll never again be neighbors or coworkers.
We’ve had two goodbye dinners in the last 8 days, both of which were bittersweet for the leavers. Living abroad is a tangle of emotions and habits and moving back home, or moving on to the next location, is yet another transition after years of transitioning. You won’t come home the same person you were when you left, and if you’re moving to a new location it means another period of adjustment that may take 6 months or 6 years.
At some point, we will be the leavers and the ones saying goodbye. This inevitability and knowledge is part of the reason that expat life can be so exciting – you know your time here is limited, so you might as well try and make the best of it. Not a bad way to live life, really, if you’re smart about it.
Still, at the end of the day, goodbyes suck and are hard. They make you miss not only the person or people leaving, but all of the people that you don’t get to see on a regular basis. Goodbyes call forth a line-up of the friends and family you’re missing, and other past goodbyes, and all of the goodbyes that are yet to come.
The only way, really, to find comfort in all of this is to think of the hellos or, even better, the hello-agains. When you choose to move to a different country, you open your heart up to expand to absorb all of the new loves and friends and favorite things that another country has to offer and I firmly believe that this broadened perspective only makes life better in the long run.