In the soundtrack of my life, Good Riddance has reserved a special spot. Being one of a few songs selected for Aaron Simon’s funeral in 2001, it had a profound impact on 19-year-old me saying goodbye to my 17-year-old best friend and boyfriend of 3 years.
At this point in my life, I’m finding the lyrics resonate in a different way. Perhaps because I find myself facing certain crossroads that seem to have such far-reaching consequences or perhaps I am drawn to the reminder that you’ll never understand the whys or good/bads of any situation until it’s all over, so just pick a direction, step boldly that way…and then enjoy the shit out of it.
This song always comes up when I think about saying goodbye. Goodbyes are never easy even if just temporary, but I think they are an important part of our personal evolution. The departure provides a unique opportunity to reflect on that person, the impact they’ve had in your life and what they’ve taught you. The distance allows you to look back at yourself and understand how you’ve changed because of them, what they’ve revealed to you about yourself and what it is you absolutely adore about them (hint: it’s usually the same thing that drives you the most insane).
Since April I have said goodbye to nearly every person who I have met since I arrived in Australia. As one of the few who is staying in Melbourne for the year, it’s shocking — I’m talking dozens of people. Most of them are continuing on their way through Australia, some are off to NZ, others to Asia, but as winter begins here the majority are headed back to enjoy summer in their home country. With Facebook & Skype many of the goodbye’s aren’t too bad, but there are some people whose leaving feels like they’re taking a little bit of the sunshine with them.
Due to the constant uncertainty and reliance on serendipitous moments, I have met so many people who have profoundly impacted my life and in such a short time. Nothing is familiar, nothing easy; yet, with unprecedented freedom and awe of your situation, everyday offers a (sometimes head-spinning) oscillation between the very best and the very worst of times. There is always this sense that you’re following a bread-crumb trail sprinkled lovingly in front of you by the Universe, balanced by those moments when you’re pretty sure you’re walking in circles, suspiciously eying up the fat, happy little birds.
There is a certain commiseration among travelers, a common vulnerability. Not to be confused with desperation, it’s an intense openness to everything and sincere seeking of genuine connections. When that connection is found (and it inevitably is) you are absolutely brimming with joy. A relationship that may be only a few months old feels like a lifetime of history in the making. This karmic magnetism has a way of pairing up two people on the same path, just when they need each other the most.
For me in Australia, the chocolate sauce to my crepe has been Sabrina. Sabrina arrived in Australia from France just 5 days after me. Here to learn English, we met while staying at a hostel with 6 other girls. She was so thankful to have someone laugh at her jokes (I thought she was hilarious) and we hit it off immediately. She has a very sharp wit (in both English and French) and perhaps it was because we’re both a bit older or perhaps because we share the same sense of humor but it was clear early on that there was kismet in our meeting. The past 6 months she has been “home” for me, a friend to go to and lean on. With all our wine drinking, laughter and tears (and sometimes tears from laughter), as Sabrina says, “we know each other by heart”.
And we do, which is why it’s a pretty heartbreaking that she’s left to go to Perth (like Vancouver to Toronto). Her away at this point is just temporary and she might not be gone long at all, but it’s still hard saying a goodbye a dear friend who I adore.
An incredibly strong, witty and kind woman with an easy confidence, Sabrina always puts others ahead of herself. She loves butter, cream, coffee, and croissants and has a way to make even the most menial task, fun. It’s no surprise that she also gives the kind of advice that I think people need to hear, so I thought I’d end this post by passing on a few gems that she has shared with me:
1. “Have a focus.”
Hands down the best advice I have received. In a life where everything is temporary and freedom is everywhere, opportunities abound. As lovely as it sounds it, that much choice can be a bit debilitating. If you understand your focus it will inform all your decisions. What do you really want? It’s different than a goal, it’s not about achieving anything, it’s about finding your true north, and then heading in that direction no matter what. It’s amazing how this simple step can offer such clarity and peace of mind during uncertainty.
2. “Take a decision, there are no bad decisions, just take.”
I think my favorite part of this advice is how she uses “take” instead of “make”. Making a decision makes it seem like something very passive and internal but TAKE is so powerful and action-oriented, and I think, more accurate to how it feels. You’ll never know the outcome of a choice you didn’t make (don’t try and don’t assume you do), so pick one and embrace it wholeheartedly. You won’t figure more out with more time, at some point you know all there is to know so you’re left to just close your eyes, plug your nose and jump. Stay true to yourself and I promise it will all work out in the end and the splash is worth it.
3. “Don’t do what you do before if you don’t like.”
If you continue to do the same things, you’ll continue to get the same results. Don’t slip into old habits, try something else to get some where new.
4. “F&%k you, speak French.” (I’m paraphrasing.)
If you have never tried to speak another language, I would like to suggest you do. Never underestimate the courage and determination it takes. It’s humbling and you spend many days for a long time, feeling like a complete idiot. You’re ignored, people are rude to you and you’re often patronized. On top of that, your limited vocabulary leaves you with a special kind of loneliness because there are complex ideas and things that can’t get out and so you can’t be understood.
Please be kind to people who are learning, be patient and listen. They are not stupid, far from it. If they don’t understand you, don’t feel self-conscious – Try again! And by this I do not mean say it again way louder and slower (she’s French, not a hearing-impaired dog). Keep your sentences short and play around with synonyms.
Sabrina sometimes was treated poorly by people for not understanding. In her frustration she would tell them in French “What if I spoke to you quickly in French would you know what I was saying? Can you answer me? No? I didn’t think so. Please give me a moment to translate.”.
5. “Pourquoi Pas?”/”Why not?”
A very useful, versatile phrase you can use anywhere. For example:“Would you like more wine?” “Would you like to go to Perth?” “Would you like to try these spicy dumplings?” “You should move to Canada!” “Do you want to go do archery?” “Should we add more butter?” “Do you want another croissant?” Etc.
A very useful phrase that everyone needs more in their life.
(Bissous Sabrina! Bonne Chance.x.)