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Feeling the departure

A couple of weeks ago I started to have this inexplicable feeling of ”newness”. Everything felt a little bit unfamiliar, like walking around in a new city. The feeling started as I was recovering from the worst flu in a few years, though that isn’t saying much. (I haven’t been seriously ill for prolonged periods of time in many years now.) I really could not describe it more accurately than ”everything felt a bit new”. Odd. Off somehow. I was more aware of my surroundings and my own feelings than usual. Often this feeling made me feel heavy as well. I felt like I had to process things a lot. Everything felt… intense.


The other day it hit me. We took an evening walk with Tiu in the neighborhood, something we haven’t done in months. Again I had that feeling of newness hit me every now and then. I was reminiscing a lot. I was acutely aware of my surroundings, looking at places in more detail than before. Many things seemed to rouse memories of the past – sounds, sights, smells. I was talking about seeing some people for the last time in a while – and then it struck me. I’m leaving.

I realized that my subconscious had started to process events on a more serious and final note than before. When I talked to someone, looked at something, listened to something, my subconscious always wondered ”will this be the last time I experience this in a very long time?” So the experience became more intense, because it was meaningful. Significant. Unique – compared to all the experiences to come in the following year. My mind wanted to attach a tone of finality to every event and action, and it really encumbered my days more. I felt fatigued at the end of each day.

I feel that after discovering the process, the feeling’s not quite as powerful anymore, yet it’s still there. I’m just aware of the process now. I know why it’s happening. And I’m happy I do, because I can now choose to ignore it or embrace it, depending on the situation.

Of course nothing final has happened. I’m not giving up anything permanently. No people, places, jobs, property or other tangible or intangible things are left behind forever – after all I’m only going away for a year! Or so I think. Of course I can’t know for sure. But let me tell you why I think this whole mental process is valuable. Because it is. Immensely valuable.

There is a saying ”you don’t know what you have until you lose it”. This is true for many things, and no different concerning this marks the end of an era and the start of a new one. The end of an era forces you to look at your life differently, recognizing what’s important and what isn’t.

Many people go through their adult lives without drastic changes at any point. Many do have children, which usually changes life dramatically. Many switch jobs, move to a new city, start a new career in a different field etc. Those are also big changes. But few make changes as fundamental as this. We are essentially giving up our jobs, our (rental) home, our (admittedly meager but still nearly all) property and – for a year – our family and friends. We are also leaving behind our culture, our language and our society – which make up most of our comfort zone.

Now, faced with leaving my comfort zone for a very long time, knowing I can’t establish a new one for a probably very long time again, I find myself wondering ”what am I giving up?” And that is apparently what’s behind all this ”newness”. I have to seriously re-evaluate my life because I know this is the last autumn I spend in my ”current life”. As discussions at my workplace turn to the next year, I realize I won’t be part of that. I will miss next spring, summer and autumn (in Finland) completely. I won’t be present in Tiu’s nephew and niece’s lives as they grow and learn. Many things change in a year’s time, and we might be away for two or three, if we find careers abroad.

I suppose that, ultimately, I already miss home. I already feel the departure in my bones and it’s started a mental process that can’t be ignored. ”Take note of what you see, hear, smell, taste and feel here. Because when you come back, home will never be the same again. Learn to appreciate what you have now and all that you have had before, so you can fully appreciate what is coming your way in the next year and in the rest of your life. Don’t settle. Keep exploring. Don’t wait for opportunity to find you – go find it. Keep pushing your limits to find your true potential.”

I once asked my mother what she thought the meaning of life is. She replied that the meaning of life is probably to enjoy life fully. It was a simple answer, yet significant. I really took that to heart.

Edit: To those who wonder how soon we are leaving – it’s still over 3 months away. But facing these ”gee I won’t be here next winter/spring/summer/autumn” moments just remind me that I am leaving. And I know 3 months will have passed in a heartbeat. One morning I wake up and ”oh, last day of work. Oh, we’re leaving in a week.”