by Sandra Leow, United World College Maastricht
27th May, 2019
My first year at UWC is coming to an end and no matter how hard I try summing it up or transcribing my experiences into words, I find it quite impossible. We didn’t make a home out of the grey, sullen buildings, but instead, we found a home out of each other. After countless reflections and reevaluations of my experience here, what stuck by was the constant goodbyes that we have to bid in this little island of ours.
Before embarking on this journey of goodbyes, we left home. We left home and little did we know, we found home in each other, here. We said our last goodbyes to our families, friends, and home. We moved miles away from what we associated as familiar and we were left with a sense of uncertainty. Although my feelings about this place still bring about a feeling of uncertainty, I am certain that this journey is unpredictable – and that in itself is beautiful. Upon arrival, we are already reminded of the days we have left with our second-years – # days until LSD, # days until graduation, # days until we have to bid our last goodbyes. With the constant weight of goodbyes, we would believe that the process of saying goodbye becomes much easier. However, with each goodbye we bid, it touches a different part of us like how every person we encounter affects us in various ways. With this constant process of grief and loss, it is certainly relative to a more complex enigma of life.
I found myself conducting various research regarding the concept of ‘The Tail End’ and I found this research conducted by ‘Wait But Why.’ This concept was inspired by the act of measuring your life in activities or events rather than measuring your life in units of time. Using myself as an example, I am 18 and if I choose to be optimistic rather than realistic, I will be hanging around until I am 90 years of age. If so, I may have a little under 72 summers left, considering the fact that it is summer all year in Malaysia.
The statement that caught my attention was when the article mentioned parental relationships. ‘I’ve been thinking about my parents, who are in their mid-60s. During my first 18 years, I spent some time with my parents during at least 90% of my days. But since heading off to college and then later moving out of Boston, I’ve probably seen them an average of only five times a year each, for an average of maybe two days each time. 10 days a year. About 3% of the days I spent with them each year of my childhood.’ (Wait But Why). Upholding a similar experience of moving away from home at the sole age of 17 like most of my peers in UWC, this poses a larger question in life that we can all contemplate.
We constantly find ourselves rushing – not being fully present. We are rushing to avoid getting a late pass for our classes at 8:08 am in the morning, rushing to make it back to take a quick nap in the residences during the small breaks, rushing to make it back to classes after a weird encounter in the corner, all-in-all, we are in a state of constant rush. Around the ages of 16-18, we find ourselves rushing to move away from home to conduct our higher education in a foreign country – perhaps the States, or somewhere in Europe, anywhere but home. We have become so eager to leave everything behind to experience something new. While this isn’t a bad mentality, we should keep reflecting on our decisions.
“How is it Christmas already!”
“This year has gone by so quickly!”
“Where has all the time gone?”
Things in our lives come to an end all the time, whether it is finishing high school, saying goodbye to friends who are moving away or leaving a job. Letting go of big things or even smaller things in life is never easy. But just like Christmas, there is always hope. Sometimes when we make sense of letting go of things and making peace with what is ending, we open ourselves up to new beginnings. Don’t be afraid to let yourself immerse in new possibilities and opportunities for the next big thing in life just because you can’t let go of the past.
To conclude this article, with the need to self-reflect: how many goodbyes do we have left? How many goodbyes are we capable of giving? As Winnie the Pooh puts it, “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”
The Flying Dutchman team consists of UWC students aiming to reflect the news relevant to the people engaged with the UWC movement.