It’s hard when you know you are leaving because mentally you start to shut down – even when you still have months and months of your posting stretching ahead of you. It’s hard because you close yourself to new people and new opportunities and new experiences. You also stop trying too hard, you don’t bother getting things fixed or putting up new pictures. You look at the bare wall and thing “nah, we’ll be gone soon, can’t be bothered”. This is where I am now.
In a way though it’s also a relief. I don’t have to think if I don’t go to that thing I’ve been invited to, I won’t make any friends because, sadly, one of the last things I need now is new friends. That isn’t to say that if I did meet someone new who I clicked with I would shut them out completely. But I’m not going out of my way anymore to find myself new companions.
It’s also a relief not to have to worry too much about all the little things that go wrong in the house. The ants that just keep on coming (I swear one of these days the entire foundations of the house are going to collapse, eaten out by termites), the light in the cupboard that has never worked, the door intercom that still isn’t connected. I can start to get annoyed about these things and then I can try and take a more zen attitude. I’m probably never going to get any of these things fixed while we still live here so I need to just let them go. It’ll be someone else’s problem soon.
There are other problems about knowing you are going soon that are more stressful. There are still many, many places I would like to visit before we leave South Africa and now I am having to narrow them down to the absolute “must-do’s”. Should Victoria Falls be on that list? Durban? Lesotho? I have just discovered another holiday in April that I didn’t know about – four extra days when the children are off school. Now I have some more days to play with but still do much to do. I know, first-world problems, right? But still – I’m starting to panic!
Worst of all about leaving though, especially leaving somewhere that you love, is knowing that very soon all of this will be no more. Knowing you will have to say goodbye to the endless sunny skies, the great, cheap wine, the outdoors lifestyle, the never-ending trips, the friendly people, the wildlife and – worst of all – to the wonderful friends you and your children have made. I really hope I will stay in touch with all those friends and get to see them in their respective home countries but it’s not the same. It’s going to be tough continuing to see their posts and Facebook updates from Pretoria, seeing what I am missing out on (especially in the middle of an English winter). But that is my reality and no amount of dreading it will stop it happening.
Of course it’s not all bad. In fact, lots of it is very good. As well as being able to laugh in the face of the ants knowing they won’t be my problem for much longer, there are many other things about my life that will improve once we return to the UK. Things will work properly again. I will be able to watch programs easily on television without having to download it all. Netflix will be the UK version and not the SA version. We will have seasons. I can walk to shops and take my dog to lots of new and exciting places to explore. And I will trade the wonderful friends I have made here for my wonderful friends back home. We will also be close to family again.
So not all bad but I am still holding on to the life here, savouring every moment, knowing it’s slipping away. As I do something very normal and mundane like walk through our local mall I know that this time next year it will all feel like a dream. I know this because I have done this so many times before. Every time I move on I leave a little bit of myself behind and I know this will be no exception. This time though I think I will leave such a big bit behind I will have to come back for it.
But in the meantime I am trying to shut these thoughts out (I know what you’re thinking – why have you written a post about it then?). After all, we still have months ahead of us – a full quarter of our posting. What I really don’t want to do is waste it on sadness and regret. No, I know I will miss this place and I know it’s going to be hard to leave but in the meantime there’s only one thing to do. Carry on loving it.