Been thinking a lot about goodbyes lately. This year featured goodbyes to old friends and to coworkers as one journey passed into the next, but it was a goodbye previously left unsaid – a farewell-shaped amend – that surrounds me as I write today.
Last month I wrote a long-overdue farewell to Korea, a place where I’d lived for much of the previous decade.
What wasn’t explored is the way I’d felt it necessary to burn bridges at the time of my first departure. Was I afraid of missing Korea? Was I scared my conviction to leave would not have survived some sadness or gratitude? Or was it something more?
Was I perhaps so sure of how lukewarmly I’d be remembered that I settled for icy instead?
We all want to be remembered in ideals. We take decades of momentary splendor and erect statues which never stood in the first place.
What would be so bad about remembering how complicated things were? Would it make the experience less if we admitted we were not always at our best, that even our host had been every bit as… average?
Do we in fact harm our ability to remember by requiring all to be glossy lullaby? How many look back at a shoebox filled with tributes and recall (faintly but it’s there) the dog-eared moments that really made that relationship ours?
It’s in this way that the call to be real becomes far more a plea. Remember things as they were – not to avoid over-celebrated ecstasy, but so the spectacular will shine as it once did.
For all memories fade. Jewelry shop or fruit stand, the wheel of time renders all counter tops the same.
We cannot hold onto the ideal. Our more recent encounters with the mundane make every fear of too-good seem burdensome.
Those normal memories, however, those we can keep around far longer. And if, in the normalcy, we recall a moment more sublime… That we can allow ourselves.
We needn’t be bothered if such memories seem ill-fitting, for they were never the norm in the first place.
And for this we should be truly grateful.