Goodbyes

In war, innocent casualties are a given. It is unfortunate, it is sad, it’s better to be avoided, but it is a given. People who have no voice, no quarrel with the status quo and no involvement in the disagreement, die. It is the same with divorce. While nobody dies, hopefully, there are innocent casualties. The children.

As a child of divorce, saying goodbye is a painful process. Whether its to a friend, a loved one, a country, a home, or a way of life. Whether it’s temporary or permanent it still bears the same emotional weight. It’s deeply, heart-breakenly heavy.

It’s a reminder of the first and worst goodbye we ever had to say, to a bond broken, a union separated and love dissolved. To the back of a parent walking out the door and out of your life.

My parents have been divorced for 25 years now but I still sometimes struggle with a simple goodbye. I still get emotional, I still cry and I still get sad.

I’m far into the last stages of a life lived in a foreign country. And I’m in the beginning stages of saying my goodbyes.

As I enter the last 4 days of a 2 year life lived in Korea I look back at all that was foreign – the land, the people, the language, the smells, the food, the culture, the weather – and I marvel at how familiar it has now become.

So familiar that I consider it my home away from home, that I consider my friends here my family away from home, and I consider my colleagues here my friends away from home.

As I start to say my goodbyes and I start to acknowledge that this is the last time I’ll eat at this restaurant, speak to this student, catch this bus, walk to this school, smile at this lady and see this person, I feel the weight of the goodbye lighten. I feel happysad.

I made the most of this opportunity. I embraced the change. I travelled. I met wonderful people. I laughed. I ate. I drank. I celebrated. I cried in frustration. I made mistakes. I dated assholes (that’s my father speaking right there). I expanded emotionally and spiritually. I lived.

I realise even more now in saying my goodbyes the importance of staying in the present moment. In savouring it. In absorbing it and in enjoying it. Days, weeks and years seem to be flying by. 2 years seem to have gone by in a flash. And in that flash I have accumulated an infinity of fond memories and adventures. Moments caught in the forever of my life.

And it’s for this reason, as I change lanes for the next part of my journey, that I leave feeling content, happy and free.

Thank you Korea, with love and gratitude,

GOODBYE

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Making Friends in Strange Places

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Growing up I always felt different. I felt like an outsider. I stood on the outer ring of the popular social circles. I was the one on the outside looking in.

I like to observe. I like to think. I like quiet and I like to be alone.

I’m an introvert.

Being an introvert in a loud world isn’t easy. As a child I was called a snob, an ice princess, haughty and uppity. People would assume I thought I was better than them just because I was quiet and reserved.

I also grew up in a loud home. Everything was magnified – anger, bitterness, self-pity, betrayal, abandonment, sadness. And very little was dignified. Then only place I found solace was within myself.

Deciding to travel solo for the past 2 years has forced me into some uncomfortable situations. Situations where I found myself amongst groups of people who seemed to be so different to me. Who made me wonder how I was ever going to begin to make connections with them.

So why try to make connections at all?

Because while being solitary some of the time is a soul fulfilling thing, having experiences that you’ve shared with one other or many others can be an even more soul fulfilling thing.

Life becomes more colorful, more intense, more bright, more interesting, more inspiring when it’s being shared over a passion for food, a bottle of wine, a priceless adventure, a game of football, a deep conversation, a love of coffee, an obsession with fashion or the joy and frustration of raising kids.

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Travelling has taught me that even though we may speak different languages, have different cultures, look different and think differently, we are all fundamentally the same. We all want the same thing. And that is simply to love and be loved.

When you’re able to see people through a common lens it makes connecting and cultivating friendship that much easier. As an introvert I’ve learnt that there’s no huge mystery to making friends. Start with a smile, be present, be yourself and be open.

And most importantly be prepared to share.

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In the photo above, my Korean sister.

Why is everyone running?

Last night a crazy idea popped into my head and for a reason unknown to me, I followed through with it this morning. Needless to say it had rather unexpected results.

I generally don’t believe in getting out of bed before the sun rises. I like a lazy wake up. I need at least 30 minutes to drink my coffee and think. And then I like to stretch and yawn and throw the covers off and roll out of bed.

I’m currently on holiday. There is nothing but lazy days to look forward to. So you can imagine my alarm, when my alarm went off at 4:30am this morning. And you can imagine my shock and horror when my body jumped out of bed and my mind had to follow suit.

No, I wasn’t going on a road trip. No, I wasn’t waking up to watch the sun rise over the ocean. And no, I wasn’t waking up to catch a flight to an exotic location.

I set my alarm at 4:30am to go for a run. And I actually got out of bed and did it. Who is this person I hear you asking? Yes, I’m wondering the same thing.

Let me backtrack and explain how I got to the crazy notion of waking up at 4:30am. I’m still in Korea and its summertime here, which means it steaming, as in 26-28 degrees Celsius steaming at 5:30 in the morning. And that is when I normally head out for a run.  I’ve been struggling for weeks to run in the heat.

Now let me backtrack and explain how I even got into running. I had been planning for years to become a regular runner. These plans were all in my head of course and that’s where they stayed. Why? Well, because I have the ability to make up the most imaginatively convincing excuses.

Then one day out of the blue, I mean, I don’t even know how these things happen, my brother-in-law started running. And then my sister started running and next thing I know my niece and nephew are running. Suddenly I’m back in South Africa on holiday and the whole family is waking up early to exercise, my mother included. So what’s a girl to do but fall in line?

After this semi-active holiday I headed back to Korea and forgot about running until my brother-in-law invited me to join a World Wide Fun Run on facebook. You know that awkward second after you’ve accepted something and then you immediately think, why did I just do that? Yes, well I could’ve not done it and no-one would have known but I gave my word and if you can’t honor your own word then who can?

That first 5km was run run walk, run walk, walk run run, walk walk, run walk, run walk. I’ve kept going because the overachiever in me wasn’t happy with the run walk situation. I gave myself 2 big goals. Get to a point of running 5km without stopping to walk and then get to a point of running it in 35 minutes minimum.

Each morning that I’ve subsequently gone out to run I’ve made small goals for myself. Small goals like increase my run to walk ratio by a few hundred meters more than the last run. Or try to increase my pace by 10 seconds with each run. These small goals have kept me motivated to keep running.

Last night I got this crazy idea to set my alarm for 4:30am. This morning I shocked myself by getting out of bed at that ungodly hour. I stepped out into a cool morning breeze. Much cooler than any other morning and I just started running. In the dark. In the quiet.

After running for 2.5km I told myself I could do it for 3km. Then when I reached 3km and still felt good I told myself I could do 4km. Then when I got to 4km I told myself, you’ve got this, just 1 more, you can do this. And then when I got to 4.8km I remembered what I wrote last week about digging deep and pushing yourself. I managed to sprint the last 200m to my own surprise. I didn’t know I still had that in me.

This morning I achieved both my goals. I ran 5km in less than 35 minutes. When I woke up I had no idea I was going to do this. I didn’t know I was ready. I got a crazy idea and I followed through with it. I went out into the dark and focussed on enjoying the cool quiet morning without any expectations for a particular outcome. It just so happens that I achieved my goals along the way.

When you think big and set goals for yourself, take action. Small steps. Get into motion and the Universe will too. One day you’ll find that the accumulation of all those small steps and little actions will lead to the achievement of that big goal.

Sometimes you might think you’re in the dark with no idea of where to next. Sometimes you need to trust that crazy idea that came from nowhere because sometimes that is the Universe whispering that you’re ready, that it’s time. Sometimes you need to be quiet to listen.