The river of goodbyes.

The sunrise by the Flower Dome.

The sunrise by the Flower Dome.

It is July, and summer break is almost over. It has been a tasteful experience; being back in the kitchen felt liberating. Compared to school, long hours for most of the week has been quite a strain both mentally and physically. But to acknowledge that one has pushed on further toward one’s goal can be quite fulfilling. It is not to say that I am anywhere near an end-goal, if there is one, but I am happy with making progress, however small it is. It is something.

On the other hand, the idea of nothingness is dangerous. We avoid it, although there is nothing to be afraid of. We fear being compounded into nobodies making unnoticeable differences, of having a muted existence in the infinity of the past and the future. This explains our constant strive to be somebody.

Then, the problem of that is: losing somebody is worse than losing nobody. As much as we will our presence to be everlasting, we are mortal. Like ephemeral boulders, we can only surrender our fleeting bodies to the permanence of flow – that is the species as a whole. Nevertheless, only rarely do we hold this perspective, and never do we let it hold us back.

In the twists and turns of the tides, we always have to say goodbyes. It isn’t the same as losing someone, but we would never know. We cannot step into the same river twice; we change more unpredictably. This summer, I have lost count of how many times I had to bid farewell to somebody. Friends and old-friends, colleagues and ex-colleagues, as well as mentors, who always will be mentors. Farewells will always be difficult, like it or not. To deny its inconvenience is to swim against the currents. Peter Pan would say, ‘never say goodbye because goodbye means going away and going away means forgetting.’

We tend to brush off fairy tales like these, thinking we have outgrown them. But really, how do we know that we have actually grown up? I like to think that there’s a part of us that never grows up, that we can always sit by the river and feel complete, no matter how many good or bad goodbyes we’ve been through. Of course there are different types of fairy tales. Brothers Grimm against Disney. Even if we are really grown up, we still can learn a lot from them, and from everything else. One of the most heart-wrenching goodbyes in Disney’s films is when Sulley had to close the door in Boo’s room. How more metaphorical can a farewell be than to close a door that would never open to the same place again?

Just as Wendy leaves the window open for Peter, Mike puts the shredded door back together for Sulley. Some things would have changed, others not. We will never know unless we forget, which is neither difficult nor easy. What we must not forget is how we have been changed, for better or for good, by people we meet. That is one way of expressing gratitude and appreciation.

In this season of goodbyes, I am feeling surprising positive, because I am excited for those who are embarking on new chapters of their lives, right here or somewhere out there. I am moving on too, to the second year of university life. I will be taking a little break before that – a week in green uniform, and the other in Tokyo. I will miss walking past the sunrise by the bay, making chocolates in a giant greenhouse, and being around the awesome people in Pollen pastry team.

We are boulders; we are rivers. Till we meet again, halfway through the woods. Bon courage !

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