I found out I had to leave for the Atlas Corps fellowship four weeks before I had to leave for the Atlas Corps fellowship. The email was matter-of-fact, “Please find your travel information attached…” They were not subject to change.
What the email should have also said is how little time four weeks is, insufficient to say good bye to the people who make up my life- who wake me up, who make me laugh, my home, my dog, my pots and pans, my watchman, my grocer- my life as I know it.
But the email said none of this. And I embarked into those four weeks under-prepared for how little time four weeks is and how long good byes take.
While sleeping at night, if I stirred awake in my REM cycle, I would become acutely aware of the smell of my pillow, the family photographs above our bed, keeping my eyes open for a few moments longer to enjoy this waking sight. I would turn around and hug my husband tightly as I fell asleep again, not even wanting to waste my sleeping hours spending time with him. If I wanted to watch T.V. I would make him watch it with me, if he was cooking I would work at the kitchen table. I found a way to make every everyday action into something we did together
I didn’t miss a single weekend of taking my dog, Courage, to the park. Even if I had gone to bed at 4:00 a.m. after a Friday night farewell party (and there were a slurry of those), i woke up at 6:00 a.m. took Courage swimming before it got too hot in the day.
And yet, the time passed, no matter how much I clung on to it in my sleep. There came the last time I picked O up and we drove to work together, singing along to Honey Singh playing on the car stereo. And there was the last time that I dropped her home. There was a last Monday Hoppipola Happy Hour, a last Tuesday gym class when the hottest trainer always comes, a last Wednesday, Thursday and so the week and my time ended.
It was heart wrenching. But now, that I look back at it, it was the best way to live my life. I had to squeeze my whole life into four weeks, and so I hugged and kissed my husband more than I do in months, I took more time out to throw the ball to Courage, I met friends to say good-bye that I hadn’t met in six months, even though we live in the same city. I let my car get coated in mud and dust because I’d rather spend that time with the people inside it. I ate a season’s worth of mangoes, not wasting time cutting them into peices, but squeezing them into pulp and sucking it out from the skin and getting it all over my face and clothes like when we were 8 years old.
And that’s why good-byes are important- so we can figure out who and what are the most important in our life, and give every moment to that. Carpe Diem! Seize the day! I had so far only heard it from poets. But Atlas Corps imposed Carpe Diem on my life. It forced me to live every moment of my life like it was the last- because it was!
Good-byes are important so we can live one years’s worth of our life in four weeks. And so, if I can spend my life saying good-bye and moving on, I will have lived my life many times over.