Preparations Part II: Emotional Prep – Goodbyes and Other Such Phenomena
Yes, it happens to us all when we make a big change in our lives. Emotions – those pesky things that get in the way of logistics. The thing that makes you wake up at 4am because you can’t remember if you packed pens. So you get up and check your bags and sure enough you have more than enough pens. That’s worry for you. Or remembering how much can change in your absence, and how much you can change too. The ideas of growth and stagnation, all tumbling about.
There are goodbyes – goodbyes that aren’t really goodbyes anymore. I have been traveling most of my life, and I still think of travel in archaic terms. There’s me, at a desk on a ship, quill to valuable pieces of paper. I know this letter will not reach you for many months… Nope. My romantic ideas of distance are simply ruined by globalization. Technology allows for me to stay connected to all the people who matter – family, friends, bill collectors. That latter one is a real bitch though – nothing puts a kink in my Lara Croft daydreams like the realization that all my bills get to go with me. That I still have to pay car insurance even though my car is across the world’s largest ocean.
Saying goodbye still manages to push my ribs closer to my heart than I would like. I hate endings, pretend or otherwise. I cried at the end of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy because I hated the idea that the Fellowship wouldn’t just keep on fellow-ing along, even though Aragorn had to be king and the elves had to go to the Grey Havens. That Annie Lennox song still gets me. Leaving friends, leaving Chicago, leaving my family – it sucks. It’s fear of loss and of pushing on alone. Except it’s not. I have to keep forcing myself to remember that I live in the glorious age of the WWW – and one of those W’s stands for World, right? The whole wide world webbed wonderfully, wound with well-wishers.
My goodbyes included a night of gaming, a cast party, and a steak dinner. There was a left turn, and a tense bout with a snow pack. It involved an overly emotional dog, and a handshake where I thought I’d get a hug. For a space it didn’t even matter I was leaving, then such sad eyes later that day I had to bite my lips to keep from crying. There were generic well-wishes and genuine encouragement. Jokes – I find jokes help us all through whatever we struggle with, if we struggle at all. And smiles – so many smiles. That makes it better and worse – I don’t know what to do with such goodness.
Crap – you know, I didn’t pack a coffee mug? I have coffee coming in a care package, but I don’t have a coffee mug. Will there be coffee mugs in China? I assume I’ll get tea cups, which can hold any beverage I choose. Ha! Problem solved through free writing!
Apart from goodbyes, one must wrestle with fear of the unknown. I’m pretty good at this. My advice – recognize that it’s not unknown. Not really. Again, we have technology. I am not Captain Cook, lazily naming islands in the South Pacific based on what they look like (seriously, the guy didn’t even make landfall on the islands he named. He just sort of looked at them and wrote down what came to mind – looking at you, Isle of Pines). You can find the basics on the web if you need. I might not know Chinese, but I can learn it. And human beings are governed by certain truths – we all have to use the bathroom at one point or another, for example. So it’s not like I’m leaving Earth.
I do wonder if the stars will be different, though.
There’s excitement to be reined in. Left unchecked, I would spend all my money going places. I am careless when it comes to money and travel. I will be in the same general continental region as Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, the Silk Road, etc. I’m a sucker for maps and the promise of vistas – and China has a lot of vistas. But I have to be practical – I am going to work. I imagine that grading homework will help keep my feet on the ground nicely.
There are harder emotions, the assassin emotions that wait for a moment of weakness. Resignation that I am giving up my life again for something new, that I am getting too old to be careless with my time. Fear of the known – the harsh realities which never leave and hang around all our necks (like bills, for example). Loneliness that I am going to be on another self-sufficient adventure, bringing memories back which will only be mine. Maybe writing them here will help with that.
The best way to deal with the hard emotions is to accept them. They’re going to be there, and they’re going to be awful, almost unbearable at times. Anne Lammott has a chapter dedicated to this in her book Bird by Bird. It’s called Radio K-F***’d, and while she uses it as definition of what causes writer’s block, I think it can quite easily be applied to us all. The thing to do is to accept they’re there, and further accept that pushing through them is going to take a lot of mental energy. And then you push back. What else can you do? Also I find that agreeing to give myself time to feel bad is important – I can compartmentalize my emotions so long as I promise myself not to just bury them.
All this is preparation. All this must be dealt with, lest it catch me off guard. I don’t know if any of you go through any of this – perhaps I am just overly emotional when I’m by myself and monologue-ing to the Internet. Who knows? Once I’m in China maybe it’ll all be sunshine and hot pots. Except the Internet says Chengdu is almost perpetually cloudy. Lovely.
Preparation Part II is as complete as it’s going to be – I have said my goodbyes. I have resolved the coffee cup issue. I have put my sad feelings into a box to open once I am by myself at my hotel in Wenjiang.
And now – Adventure!