It’s never about the last day: Leaving a place

Whenever it’s my last day somewhere, I panic. It’s the last 24 hours I will spend in that place and I get the feeling like I’m being squeezed in between two walls. Very plainly, I start to freak out. There are things that I have left to do and things that I loved so much that I want to do again. In those 24 hours, I want to try to do both of those categories, which is impossible. I’d end up running around wanting to see and eat everything. Picture a balloon being blown up almost until it bursts and then being let go. Madness. I finally realized a few years ago that when saying goodbye, it’s never about your last day.

I studied in Pittsburgh for school and spent a total of 3 years there. After I graduated, I left with no plans of returning there except for visits. I remember walking around the last day and thinking of all the things I had done and not done. I thought about what made me love (and also hate) that city. And you know what? None of those opinions and memories were formed on my last day. They were reflected upon, sure, but everything happened before that.

Now, I’m preparing to leave Madrid after spending my last 2 years here. Similar to when I left Pittsburgh, I have no plans to come back to live here any time soon. About two months ago, I started to think about my last day and what it would be like. Well, after a few short minutes, I realized that it would be a bit stressful and full of last minute packing, checking my flight status, and making it to the airport on time. That’s it. No get togethers with friends, no great tapas and wine, and no wanderings through the city. All of that happens beforehand when you’re not pressed for time and not packing your bags. For me, that’s also the time when I’m not worried about my last day. It’s when I’m purely enjoying my life in a beautiful city with amazing people.

Personally, that’s a hard realization to come to because July 4th, the day I fly home, is burned into my mind. I’ve tricked myself into thinking that something magical is going to happen that day and, honestly, nothing will happen. I’ll likely cry, be sore from lugging my stuff around, and then be exhausted by the time I land in NYC.

On my last day here, ideally I want to be at peace; I want to look back at the time that I was granted and accept what my experiences have been, whether there’s still things left to do or not (spoiler alert: there’s always stuff left to do). My last three months in Spain have been more intentional than they have ever been before. I’ve been doing things I’ve always put off. I’ve been seeing friends and enjoying life here. I’ve been trying to live my life aware that a last day is coming, but not staying stagnate until then.

Whether I’m ready for it or not, July 4th is going to arrive and there will be no grand fireworks for me…just a lot of heavy bags, some tears, and a lot of joy for the next chapter of my life.

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2 responses to “It’s never about the last day: Leaving a place

  1. Katie, I’m in a similar position. I’m moving for the first time and I’m terrified but excited. I’m trying not to make NYC a dreamlike place just to have my hopes crushed. I know there’s all kinds of people, some nice and others completely rude, just like any other city. But I’m also thinking about so many things I have yet to do and I only have 27 days left. At the same time, I’m thinking about all the things I’m going to do once I arrive in NYC. I went to visit NYC back in February and when I left home, I cried while driving, very dangerous but couldn’t help it. I know for a fact there’s going to be tears all around when I leave for good. Although, I do plan on visiting home to see family once in a while. Happy travels to you Katie, hope your plane ride goes well. 🙂

    • I’m moving to NYC too! It’s good to be optimistic but realistic. Any city can be dreamlike if you find the right things. It’s important to remember though that life happens and regardless of the awesome place we live, we’ll have hard days and hate it. Moving requires so much hard work! Good for you for doing it 🙂 As for leaving, I realized in my last weeks in Madrid that I much prefer balling my eyes out and having it be so difficult to leave than the other way around. The other way means I didn’t make roots there or enjoy my time. Good luck getting ready for the Big Apple!

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