I’ve never been good at saying goodbye. It’s not a sentiment I’m very comfortable with and I always feel awkward when I find myself entangled in a prolonged farewell. I try and approach these moments the same way I remove a Band Aid: I carefully peel away an edge and just as the pain of all the pulled hairs starts to settle in, I quickly yank away the rest and get it over and done with as rapidly as possible. That’s my kind of goodbye.
My few attempts at doing it otherwise have always been reminders of why I choose to quickly rip away rather than dawdle in the pain. The day I left for University and had to say goodbye to my brother was the hardest goodbye I’ve had to do yet. We obviously both knew this wasn’t a true farewell and we would be seeing each other again soon and on a regular basis thereafter but we had never been apart for more than a few days in our entire lives. Neither of us chose to quickly rip off our Band Aids that day and the result was a painful, sloppy and prolonged goodbye that we both look back on with incredulity that we could have possibly produced such a ridiculous scene, although it was probably what we both needed at the time.
And so, this past spring, when the majority of my friends graduated University and went their separate ways, I vowed to stick to my tried and true approach and tear myself away from the goodbyes as quickly as I could. And it worked.
Admittedly, I’ve found that there is, at least in my experience, very few goodbyes between good friends that are forever. I know deep down that although many of the quick goodbyes I said to my University friends means we won’t see each other for a while, possibly even years, we will see each other again. True friendship and connections are like that, they break down barriers that keep us apart, like oceans and time. And that makes the goodbyes easier.
This is what I feel as I spend my last few hours in Zimbabwe. It is a true friendship, a true connection that binds me to this place. Of course I have family whom I love that are here and saying goodbye to them will be difficult but my feelings run deeper than a simple familial tie. If my aunt and uncle and little cousin didn’t live here anymore my heartfelt bind to Zimbabwe would not change, it would not weaken.
My family who still lives here have been a tie between myself and Zimbabwe but they are only one tie in the vast web that keeps Zimbabwe and I together. It is the rolling green mountains of Nyanga and the peaceful and serene Eastern Highlands, the ancient and wondrous ruins of Great Zimbabwe, the physics defying balancing rocks of Matopos, the hippos and scorching heat of Kariba, the hectic streets of Harare, the red dirt that stains my shoes and the roaring mists of the cascading Victoria Falls. These are all things that fuel my innate love for this wonderful country and what makes it so difficult to say goodbye.
Zimbabwe and I are inextricably linked. Zimbabwe is a part of me. It has shaped and moulded me into the person I am today. It has framed the way I see the world and interact with the people around me. And I like to think I am a part of Zimbabwe, albeit a mostly small and insignificant one. This is a comforting thought because it means I can never say an absolute goodbye to this country. How can you forever depart with something that is a part of you? It can’t be done. It may slide to the periphery every now and then but it’s always waiting, eagerly, to be pulled back into the heart.
I see my departure not as a difficult and irreparable rupture but as the quick firm squeeze my brother and I now share whenever I leave home. It’s as meaningful a goodbye as I ever feel and even though we both know we won’t see each other for a while, we know I’ll always come back and he’ll be there waiting with open arms. That’s how I feel leaving Zimbabwe. Yes, it might be a while until I come back but it’s only a matter of time before its sights, smells and people once again fill my senses and when life sees fit to bless me with the opportunity to come back home, Zimbabwe will be waiting for me, open armed, ready for a quick squeeze.
Until next time!