Endings involve 2 key themes:
1) Goodbyes. I’m not a lover of goodbyes, and I am not too great with them either. Too be fair, I’ve never met anyone who is a fan of saying goodbye, at least to someone they hold dear in their hearts.
2) Completion.There is something to be said, though, for the fine art of completion; the checking off of tasks from a list, the closing out of a project, the finish line of a challenge to be relished and endured.
My Completion of Service from Peace Corps encompasses the above two themes.
This past week I have been in the capitol city of Phnom Penh at the eagerly anticipated (see #2 above) Close/Completion/Celebration Of Service (hereafter referred to as COS) conference. A few days full of reflection, information, and an outpouring of emotions and thoughts we’ve been marinating on for nearly two years. The cloud of “I’m-not-sure-when-or-if-I’ll-ever-see-you-again” hung over the group (see #1 above), and many would-be casual goodbyes have ended with a “wait… ” and a mutual realization that is may be IT.
For me, goodbyes are the dessert finish of a meal I didn’t want to end. I endeavor to fill them with as much meaning and love as I can, because wait… when will we see each other again? As someone whose life has turned on a dime with a tragic loss and lingering, agonizing thoughts of “I wish I told them…” I will try to pack as much as possible into this goodbye. Goodbyes can be beautiful things, and oftentimes are the finality of something that marks the beginning of another. But they can suck so, so bad.
I’ve been hovering on the brink of tears these past few weeks upon coming to the realization that this long awaited completion brings with it some dreadful goodbyes. My Program Manager, Sangkim, whom I refer to as my “Watcher” (Buffy fans, anyone?) is one of the most fantastic people I’ve had the pleasure of working with – ever – and I found myself pushing down the lump threatening to rise in my throat when he delivered his touching goodbye speech to us at the COS Conference. In fact, a majority of the staff at the PC Cambodia post have the distinction of being some of the best people I’ve worked with.
Reflecting on my service and my work with Cambodians, I must say my trainees at the RTTC have been the best part of my work. They’re beyond students at this point, they’re friends, and seeing their growth and progress in the last two years makes me feel like a proud mama. They’re all so special and unique and driven – it’s hard to release them into a world where teachers are not valued nearly enough. This goodbye is especially sad, as I know I will not ever see most of them again.
Lastly, the closing out with my fellow Peace Corps Volunteer (PCV) friends leaves me feeling especially vulnerable. No matter how close or distant I am emotionally from them, there is a bond in spending the last 2 years living and working in Cambodia together. My dearest friend here, Christine, reminds me that it is the beginning of a new journey together . With that sentiment in mind, maybe a more appropriate and less final option to “goodbye” is “see you tomorrow.” With that, I’ll close with this story.
Due to a combination of circumstances involving grad school and other future plans, a couple PCV friends of mine had to Early Terminate their service before the COS conference. One of them I was particularly close to throughout service, someone whom I could relate to on many levels when it came to our experience here. We had a goodbye get-together at a bar here in Phnom Penh, and as I was leaving, I approached that particular friend. We started our goodbye, with those unexpressed emotions in the air. However, after we hugged, she said “Wait, I’ll see you at the office tomorrow, right?” “Yes!” I exclaimed, “Yes, I’ll be there. See you tomorrow.”
I never saw her at the office, but maybe we didn’t need that heavy goodbye.
We will cross paths soon enough.