I used to not be able to cry in front of people. Even now and for whatever reason, I am only able cry in front of a handful of people. This rule though, doesn’t apply when I’m leaving Sri Lanka, or really when I go there.
I still remember my extended family waiting for us on the porch, even though it’s 2am and even though they have to go to work in the morning. I am tired from the twelve plus hours of travelling but seeing them waiting on the porch fills my heart with so much happiness and love, I cry. When the van stops, they come and open the van door, so eager to see us that they cannot wait until we come out. And when we do, I am showered with hugs and happy-crying. We’re laughing, marvelling at how much we have changed since the last time, and crying because we have changed since the last time.
Last time I was in Sri Lanka, I mused to my aunt that we only see parts of each other’s lives. Even though we’re in each others thoughts everyday, we only get to be an active participant from time to time. And even then, for a small period. Even though modern technology means that I can call them anytime, it’s nothing compared to being physically present.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now. I’ve lived in three countries, and when I move, I leave behind people that I care about. I remember in sixth grade, we had to write about a significant experience that’s occurred in our lives. Naturally, I wrote about the first time I left Sri Lanka. I talked about how my whole family came to the airport with us and I talked about how much we all cried and didn’t want to let go. After my teacher had marked it, I didn’t get my book back. I found out she nominated my story for star of the week, not because my English was particularly good, but because no one had written about an experience like that. I realised as time went on how unique my experience was. I don’t think anyone in my grade had left behind their home. I used to think how lucky they are, to have everyone they care about in one country.
The pang of missing someone never really goes away. And I think the missing, at least for me, is not that they are distant from me; it’s that I’m not an active participant in their life, and they’re not in mine. And I think that’s why, no matter how many times I call or Skype, I miss them.
As we count down the days to coming back home again, I actively distance myself from their daily routines. I try to become a tourist, so that when its time to leave, it may be a little bit easier to say goodbye. Though in truth, I don’t think it matters. Saying goodbye sucks.
I hate the day we leave, because the whole day is filled with goodbyes. First to people in our neighbourhood who pops by throughout the day, and then at night to my family. I hug my grandma and I don’t want to let go. I hug my aunt and her kids and I don’t want to let go. I’m crying so much that I can barely see where I’m going. After I say good bye to the rest of the family, I hold onto my aunt again, until the last moment when we really have to leave. We get in the car and I look back, and there they are again on the porch. All I can think is how lucky I am to have so many people I love. How lucky I am how have so many people I miss.