At a recent party that I hosted, a friend came up to me and asked me, “So…do you feel ready?”
I took a sip of my drink and I quickly glanced around my surroundings before answering her question. We were standing outside in my backyard as my other friends sat or stood talking and laughing with each other. In the corner of the yard there were two cooks serving delicious Tijuana Style tacos as the salty sweet smell of grilled adobada and carne asada was rising up in the air. Christmas music was playing through the speakers and inside my house there were origami cranes as decorations and letters spelling out the words “FAREWELL” on the wall.
All of this was happening because I was saying goodbye to my 10 years of living in California to finally move to Japan.
In March of 2014 my work gave me the approval to move to our Tokyo office in Japan. Living in Japan had been a dream of mine for quite some time. That desire became even stronger after a faithful volunteering trip to my home country in 2011 to aid in relief efforts after the Tsunami and Earthquake in north-east region of Japan. The trip solidified my immense interest in Japan and a hunger to do something positive there some day, somehow.
When I received the green light, a big question soon lingered in my mind. It’s a question that I believe every person making a significant, indefinite move to a new place might ask:
How do you say goodbye?
Everyone knows that goodbyes are unavoidable in life. Whether its nonchalantly saying goodbye to friends after a fun night out, breaking up, or losing a relative or a friend, its something we all go through. As I’ve grown to be an adult though, I’ve realized however that it’s not enough just to expect goodbyes and deal with them, but it’s also necessary to proactively say goodbye to these things in your life.
Why? For me, I’ve had experiences where I chose not to say goodbye out of fear of being hurt, only to feel a heavy regret that I didn’t. Other times I hastily said goodbye because I was so excited to leave, only to sit in my quiet moments and feel as though I’ve lost something I never truly cherished.
Because of these experiences I wanted to fully engage this time and do it “right”. But how do you say goodbye to a place you’ve lived for so long? Where do you start when the goodbye is a combination of a multitude of different farewells all wrapped into one? I was determined to find out what that might be.
As I meditated, what I first realized was that I only saw goodbyes as just two things. The future and the past.
1) Future: Saying goodbye can mean to move forward towards the next thing and being okay with it.
2) The Past: Saying goodbye can mean remembering and reminiscing the good and bad memories and experiences you had and interacting with it.
But what I also realized was that there is a third aspect of a goodbye that’s often forgotten: the PRESENT. You can fantasize all you want about what you will do in your new place or you can continue dwelling in the past of what you once had, but to truly say goodbye is to also be present in the present. In this very place in time where you will eventually leave, who are you and what can you do to be yourself right now? It’s like eating food. When you eat something you aren’t thinking about what you ate last night or what you will eat tomorrow. You are eating the food that’s right in front of you. This insight was a good start, but I still didn’t know what the tangible action was.
…and it clicked. The way you say goodbye before leaving for a new place is simply: to make memories. Making memories to me meant to relive past experiences again. It meant to make brand new memories that I can only do while I was here in the present before leaving. And making memories meant that I could take them with me when I leave and live in Japan.
So that’s what I did to say goodbye to San Diego, California, and United States of America these last couple of months.
I went to my alma mater University of California of San Diego to look at my old dorm room and remember who I once was. I traveled to beautiful North Carolina and Canada to see my best friends who grew up with me and explore a brand new place. I finally bought 4 backpacks and stuffed them with food and items to give to homeless people (something I’ve always wanted to do but never got around doing it). I took time just having dinner, lunch, and conversations with those around me. Each and every one of these memories and much more will be with me when I live in that tiny, small, apartment in a crowded district somewhere in Tokyo among the noise, the people, and the different culture. And when I feel lonely, confused, or disillusioned, I have these memories to be my companion.
Back to my party.
As I finished overlooking my farewell party, I took a second sip of my drink, and I looked back at my friend. Before I could answer my friend’s question, she said “I mean, it feels so surreal. Has it hit you that you are leaving?”
“But when it hits me” I said, “I’ll be ready”
With this post I’d like to announce a change to my blog that will hopefully be the next chapter of “The Practicality”. Instead of just a style blog, my goal will be to collect stories of Japan and its people. I’ll still write about fashion here but I also want to extend that to show what the heartbeat of the country is like, and of course introduce some good places to eat and visit 😉 Hopefully the posts will be informative, entertaining, and bring some thoughtful conversation to you all. If you are interested go ahead and click “follow” on my page to receive my posts through your email.
See you in Tokyo!
Photos by my friend Daniel Hoffman