If you are a Canadian/American international family in the education world then you know the feeling of this time of year. It’s when the leaves turn colours and fall off the trees only elsewhere, floating a little homesick raincloud above that corner of your mind. It’s when the students start to drive you a little crazy as they gear up for holidays, and changes in the administration may make you even crazier. But mostly, it’s when friends decide to stay or leave and either way, you’re left feeling like the ground is moving beneath your feet. Again.
Every year at this time it’s been hard, and I’ve been doing this for a decade. It’s hard to keep putting effort into friendships knowing you’re about to be whisked out of each other’s lives (but not for months… meaning there’s a long time to live with the conflicting emotions). It’s hard to imagine how things will look in the new school year, without people who used to play important roles. And it’s hard to focus on one thing when you’re about to uproot, or when you’re still reeling from a recent move.
But now, thinking of my little Q, I have realized these coming years are likely to be the some of the hardest ones yet. Soon, the people who inspired me to have a natural birth with a midwife won’t be around to share parenting strategies with. People who helped me to feel safe and strong, or who taught me essential life lessons, or helped me get ready for motherhood, will no longer be part of my journey. Soon enough, the friends who watched my son be born, held him on every month-iversary, supported my family and I and taught us so much, either they will move far away, or we will. It’s inevitable. And so is all change, and so is life, and value does not come only from eternality… I know. But when the moves are imminent – and they’re always imminent at this time of year, every year – it’s not always easy to remember what’s really important.
And what about Q? Will he appreciate his transient beginnings? The pictures of him with his ‘cousins’ on holidays will be babies and friends that he no longer knows. When we tell him stories of these early years, they will be full of wonderful, amazing, supportive, helpful, loving people that he won’t remember and maybe won’t see again. Will he feel a space in his life that *should* be filled with continuous relationships?
So, as the leaves fall off and the trees begin to hibernate, conversing their energy for the eventual spring, I am reflecting on how I need to consolidate and conserve.
I am working on being with the sadness of saying goodbye, a sadness that has arrived long before the goodbye and will come up over and over again in coming months as the changes are anticipated and assimilated. I have to remember to feel the sadness that spreads through me, to mourn the losses, instead of pushing people away to deal with the fact that soon enough they won’t be there. That’s a strategy that works, after all, but only in the short term and with unwanted side effects.
I am working on reminding myself that as far as Q is concerned, this is life. And it’s normal because it’s all he knows. And there are lessons for him in this: about giving and taking and being able to let go; about appreciating what you have while you have it, and allowing life to be fluid and cyclical and full of change. Lessons I need to learn before I can hope to embody them and pass them along.
And so I am working on noticing the cyclical quality of so much of life. Of the days, the moon, and the seasons. Of my own body, a cycle without which I wouldn’t have Q to worry about. As long as I pause to remember it, I know that holding on is never as sweet as letting go, and that just becuase something doesn’t last forever does not mean it wasn’t worth while.
The truth is, as always, I wouldn’t change our lifestyle and I wouldn’t trade in the moments and years with the people I’ve met. I’ve known people who have bolstered me, changed me, lifted me and embraced me. People who have accepted me entirely, as I was in that moment, regardless of who I was before or what they hoped I’d become. In this lifestyle, people become like family very quickly, as we all scramble to build support networks for life’s ups and downs. It’s nice to be needed, and to have others there when needed by you. Sentimentality aside, that pragmatism is worth the tears I’ve shed and more in it’s simple beauty. And after we go our separate ways, maybe we’ll see each other again, and maybe we won’t. Maybe it’ll never be quite the same once that bubble is burst and lives diverge, or maybe it’ll be sweeter with new experiences to share and a thread of connection running through so much time and distance. Gratitude for what is, has been, and will be, can help. But man, does this time of year really suck.