Saying goodbye is never easy.
This is especially so when you don’t know if you’ll ever see someone again. We’ve all been through it: when a friend travels for an extended period, when a relative is on the brink of death, when a loved one is about to leave you.
In exactly seven days I would’ve already left Singapore for Hong Kong, where I will live, work and play for the next four months, God-willing.
I haven’t finished packing my luggage yet though. My suitcase is in a corner of the living room, with a handful of long-sleeved shirts, sweaters and leggings haphazardly thrown in. My mum predicts that I’ll start panicking in a few days. (I disagree.)
I’m sure a huge part of why I’ve been putting this off is because I don’t quite want to go. It’s only been a few months since I was finally reunited with my entire family, and now I have to leave them again.
When I visited my family in the States for the first time, I stayed with them for three months. Three blissful, blessed months of reveling in the presence of my parents, embarking on traveling adventures, and whiling my days away as I pleased. But as my time with them drew rapidly to a close, I began to bemoan my departure. I didn’t want to go back to Singapore, I didn’t want to start my first year of university, I didn’t want to part with my parents.
My dad chided me, “Why don’t you want to go back? You’re starting a new phase of your life! We’re so happy and excited for you. It’s a good thing, not a sad thing that you have to leave.”
I understood the truth in his words, but I stubbornly persisted in my refusals; there was a certain comfort in rejecting the inevitable. I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go.
Yet when I finally had to, I walked past the departure gate with passport in hand, eager to board the plane and to begin the journey back home. My family stood by the gate as they watched me leave, red-eyed and reluctant to do the same. Afterwards, my mum complained that I hadn’t even turned around to wave; upon reaching home she cried as she put away my bedsheets and clothes.
The first family farewell was in 2010, one that would see my parents and sister off for three years.
Our last moment together was a rushed affair; all we could manage was a hurried breakfast of toast and a few blurry snapshots, before they bustled off with some 50 suitcases in tow.
I felt a strange emptiness when I returned to my aunt’s flat–my new, temporary home–and cried in the shower that night, as I thought how awfully long they would be gone. It began to dawn on me what that goodbye meant.
Yet those three years of living apart from them was also the time I grew the most: when I was forced to stop depending on my parents for everything–such as running day-to-day errands, buying groceries and cooking meals, and arranging medical and dental appointments.
It was also when I had the space and time to grow as an independent individual, and when I discovered my identity in Jesus Christ–an identity not as someone’s child, not as constituted by my past, not of Wong Wendy, but Wendy Wong.
It was a time of maturing, learning and most importantly, sanctification, as I began my walk with the Lord.
Looking back, none of this would’ve been possible had I remained ensconced in the comforts of home, cradled in the bosom of my parents, and insulated from the realities that life would throw my way sooner or later.
When I said goodbye to my family that first time, it was also a goodbye to shackles and uncertainties that had held me back. It was a goodbye that necessitated and propelled me to a place where I could make mistakes and learn from my own experiences. It was a goodbye that gave me the freedom to question long-held presuppositions about who I was and who I wanted to be.
It was ultimately the goodbye that enabled me to plunge into life’s pilgrimage as my own person.
If I told my dad about my reluctancy to leave for Hong Kong, I’m sure he would frown and say, “Aiya why sad? You’ve lived without us for three years already! It’s a new adventure for you. So don’t worry, be happy!”
Saying goodbye is never easy, but it is a necessary step, one that I’m sure will take me closer to where I was meant to go and who I was meant to be.
I don’t know what to expect, but I do know that my life is in God’s hands, and that this exchange programme is in his plans for me.
I hope and pray that this will indeed be a good-bye, and an even better hello to what is to come.