What to do with excess baggage...
We had two farewell parties. Possibly three if you count the 40th birthday party we may or may not have hijacked. And it was mind-blowing how much love we felt at those gatherings, how many people showed up just to wish us well and tell us how much they would miss us. There were moments when I truly questioned what kind of people would walk away from so much love.
They all said the same thing. ‘You’re so brave’. I played that word over and over in my mind. Was I brave? I felt strong knowing that I had my husband at my side. I felt confident that the universe was on our side (now that it had shown up on a few occasions, I was sure we were pretty tight). I felt supported by the weight of so much love from all those same people who were telling me I was brave. But the true bravery was yet to come.
Saying goodbye to our families was harder than I ever could have imagined. We’ve both lived abroad before, 10, 15 years ago. In my mind I thought it would be the same – slightly traumatic, but mostly exciting.
But I underestimated how much it means to have a deeply loving and supportive family and friends who just want to see you fly, but ultimately are going to miss the hell out of you.
In those last couple of weeks, each goodbye was a dagger to my heart and as the weeks turned to days, the sadness was like a tidal wave that damn near wrecked me.
And that’s how I found myself sobbing in an airplane toilet at 33 000 feet, wondering what the fuck we had just done. Once again, I felt loss, and freedom. But this time there was an unexpected visitor to the party. Guilt. I felt like I was abandoning everyone – my family, my friends, my work colleagues… They smiled and waved us goodbye, but their lives now had a big Evan and Shan shaped hole in it. While we forged into the unknown, they were left behind devoid of the love and support that we provided. I knew that they all wanted us to kick ass, but in some ways I felt like we were leaving everyone when they needed us most.
My family were all going through a tough time. There were friends I didn’t get to say goodbye to. Work was the same chaotic mess it always was. But, there I was, just wheeling my luggage trolley out of the mayhem and into the unknown. It was surreal.
Over the next few weeks, I hung out with guilt quite a bit. It woke me up in the middle of the night a few times. It tapped me on the shoulder as I stopped to admire new sights and relished in exciting new spaces. It sat with me in the park as we ate 3 pound meal deals in the 10pm sunshine.
Eventually I found I was able to observe it with love and put it in its place. It still travels with me, alongside ‘loss’ and ‘freedom’. I give it its moment and then I gently tell it to return to its seat and buckle up for the ride.
'Loss’ has its days too. It creeps up on me when I least expect it. And suddenly I’m weeping into my Guinness while longing for a hug from my Dad or feeling paralyzed with sadness in the middle of Primark, wishing my sisters were standing next to me. (Shopping is always incomplete without my sisters.)
I guess the lesson here is that on every great adventure, you will have some extra baggage. You just have to know when to stick it in storage and pick up your carry-on.