Goodbyes are just new beginnings

Leaving things behind is something we do throughout life. It can be hard to say goodbye, but doing so usually leads to something new and surprising, as Mariska Jansen discovered. 

We often think of goodbyes as something sad. Saying goodbye means something in your life is ending and therefore something in you is ending—and for the people and places you leave behind, there is also an ending. In his novel News from Berlin, Dutch author Otto de Kat tells the tale of an African soldier, Matteous, who fights in World War II. After being heavily injured Matteous is hospitalized in London, where the only light in his life is the nurse who tends to him faithfully.

When he finally decides to go back to his home country, Matteous finds it hard to say goodbye. He asks the nurse how they can stay in touch, saying he would not be alive without her. He hopes maybe she will visit Africa some day. But by saying farewell to his time in London, Matteous is able to return to Africa—a place it would also pain him to never see again.

Dutch philosopher Marli Huijer says we often hold ourselves back from a big leave-taking that would really turn our life upside down. Fear and a ‘desire for stability and continuity’ stand in our way. ‘On the one hand, there’s a desire for continuity of our self and our existence—we have a need to experience ourselves as a unit through time,’ she writes in her essay De belofte van het onverwachte (‘The promise of the unexpected’). ‘On the other hand, there’s a need for continuity of our environment—we wish to continue to identify with the people and things all around us.’

Text Mariska Jansen  Photography Shutterstock