Goodbye to all that

In The Art of Travel Spring 2018, Sydney, 15. Farewells, Places by Sasha2 Comments

I’ve gotten used to the view from my bedroom window.

Central Station’s clocktower is the centerpiece, an Australian flag waving in the wind atop it.  The dark red youth hostelling association building neighbors it, and a Catholic church juts out between the two. In the distance, I can see the business district of Surry Hills, the blue-mirrored buildings I walk by often. Directly across from me is a grey building that belongs to the University of Technology, Sydney, and just beyond that is my favorite BYO dumpling spot. If I tilt my head to the left, I can see Sydney’s iconic skyline glistening in the afternoon sun.

I have to leave in a few days. I’ll peel the polaroids we’ve collected over the semester from our kitchen wall, and I’ll pack stuff my Vans into my suitcase, which were once white and are now a greyish-brown.

I am looking outside of my bedroom window again, and I see that the leaves are turning yellow. Somehow, this makes it seem like the right time to leave. This isn’t the same Australia that it was when I got here—the air is cooler, the days are shorter.

For months, I’ve been unsure of how I’ve felt about this whole experience. As I look out from my bedroom window, I realize that I’m going to miss this place so much that I feel uneasy. It’s not just Sydney itself, but that I could never replicate my time here: the things I saw, the people I saw them with. I feel nostalgic for something that hasn’t even ended yet.

I don’t want to leave, but I don’t want to stay here longer. I think that means that, like Marie Kondo writes in her book Spark Joy, I should thank what has brought joy into my life, but let it go when it no longer serves me.

I think Joan Didion does this well in “Goodbye to All That,” (1967) which is possibly my favorite essay of all time. Didion moved to New York City when she was twenty and fell in love with it, “the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.” After years of living there and never losing her fascination with the city, she realized that she “was very young in New York and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.”

In my opinion, Didion is writing that we all need different things at different stages in our lives. NYC was what Didion needed in her twenties, and I think Sydney was what I needed these past few months. But, like Didion describes, that ‘golden rhythm’ has been broken, and I’m ready to move along. Still, I will always think about and be changed by the time I’ve spent here, just as Didion feels inclined to reflect upon New York years later.

And so, in the spirit of joy, it’s time to say “goodbye to all that.”


(Image: View from my window; Source: Sasha )

Comments

  1. I love the Didion reference. “Goodbye to all that” (and “Slouching Towards Bethlehem” in its entirety) is such a gem.

    I also particularly responded to this part of your post: “I realise that I’m going to miss this place so much that I feel uneasy. It’s not just Sydney itself, but that I could never replicate my time here: the things I saw, the people I saw them with. I feel nostalgic for something that hasn’t even ended yet.”

    I feel the same way about leaving Florence – it’s not about the city in particular, but the intangible feeling of the confluence of people, culture, emotional state, location, and everything else that can never be recreated with perfect authenticity again.

    Unlike films and books, real life endings don’t come with a neat resolution or an epiphany where they all wrap up with a perfect good-bye and clear outcome, which makes saying goodbye that much more confusing and difficult – especially when we have that expectation in mind. I appreciate your ability to see Sydney for what it was and to understand what it gave you and why as you head home. Safe travels 🙂

  2. I, like Tia, have hung on to the line in which you express your nostalgia for “something that hasn’t even ended yet”. After I read this, I let it simply and loudly roll around in my mind for a few minutes. Your words resonate. Your words resonate not just because I have already been thinking upon my time abroad like it is a memory, or because I wake up in my bed somehow simulateously missing my bed, but also because I haven’t been able to concretely express this feeling in the form of a sentence until reading your line.
    I have nostalgia for the present moment. I have nostalgia for this moment right now as I am sitting at the foot of a friends bed, in a position I so often sit in to work here in Berlin. I have nostalgia for the sound of the tekno music outside the window mixing with the tekno music another student is playing while they shower. I feel as though I have been watching people around me, who have been my companions whilst abroad, take moments to pause. In these moments of pause I watch them take in their surroundings, whether they are at the edge of the river at sunrise at their favorite club, or drinking a German soda on a familiar path swathed in dappled light. They take it in and then shut their eyes tightly as if to burn the image into their mind. I only realize now that I have been watching live and preemptive nostalgic behavior. Perhaps in times of change we sink into stages of premature nostalgia, attempting to suckle on the comfortable feelings and images of things of the soon-to-be-past, as a way of coping with the future? Thank you so much for giving me the words to my feelings and I hope you more-than-enjoy your final days abroad.

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