Saying Goodbyes a Variety of Times

As March comes to a close, it is also a time to reflect on the many things that happened the first quarter of this year. Wow, what a first quarter! There were big things that happened, which included getting contacted for a new position and eventually receiving an offer, a very challenging winter season that involved commuting to Evanston at least once a week, and two demanding classes (law and a media content class). These are all very demanding because along with these, I am also working full-time, which sometimes even involved weekend hours.

With these changes are also smaller changes in my life, which now as I reflect on them are actually the bigger things: they are more weighty because they involve and influence my personal life.

As a person, I think I am growing. I feel my body changing its shape, my body holds more of what I eat which compels me to exercise more (but the tension is time, as usual, where I know I need to do more for myself but unfortunately don’t have a lot of time to allocate beyond school and work). But there are also days when I feel like I’ve not grown at all, and it leaves me with a feeling of dissatisfaction because I feel that there should be MORE changes in myself at this point in my life. Furthermore, there are also those times when we’re caught in a situation and we feel like we’re our 16-17-18 year old selves again, or sometimes even a 5-year-old when we are frustrated with not getting what we want.

So, I want to take the time to reflect on the changes happening. These are the times when the changes in our lives is made more real, because as we think about them, we acknowledge their existence and accept them. If we’re not satisfied, these are also the instances when we reassess our trajectory and make the changes we want to see in our lives. I think everyone should make the time to reflect in this way. Many of us, and I’m guilty of this when things get busy, just go through the motions without realizing it and are so caught up in the minutiae of everyday life, and then we complain that we wake up one day and realize we’re 40.

I’m saying goodbye to old versions of myself. I’m saying goodbye not as a permanent break from these past selves, but more as a formal closure of their reign. I will forever hold all past, present and future aspects and versions of selves that I’ve had and will have, but I am a different version of myself at key periods – periods that can span decade, a few years, or a few months. It is part of the progression of life to say goodbye to emotions and traits of the past, especially those that don’t serve me anymore and I am willing to let go to make space for new things that will come into my life.

I’m in my late twenties, and I can say that I have more wisdom than in my early 20s. My early 20s were rough; I didn’t know my direction and there were such unbearable, grating anxiety about whether or not I will achieve any measure of success. Thinking about those days make me shake my head now.. how anxious I was! I graduated from one of the top universities in the world and had all the support and of the people around me. I had the perfect environment to thrive, and had the promise to achieve what ever I want. But then again, it’s easy to look back and make that judgment of myself, over actually believing that I will succeed, when I didn’t know much at the time. I thought too much of how others will think of me. I strove for perfection, because that is the only reality I knew.

My mid-twenties were great but were not replete with worries. In fact, I think these were more trying years because this was when tensions came at me at a greater force; the tensions that are part and parcel of the transformation into an adult. I saw that reality isn’t perfect, which is still hard to accept, but I learned that I had it in me to survive. Compared to my early twenties, my mid-twenties were the years when I started believing in myself, and when life throws something at me, I have enough will to get myself to a good place. It could be a painful thing, or span an extended period of trial, but I know I have the strength. I can fight when called upon. I know this is easy to say, but I believe this deeply since I’ve experienced it. I don’t know what life will throw at me in the future, but I know I can come up with a game plan to handle it, of course with the help of my faith.

Throughout my early twenties up to this point in my life, I want to be successful. I still do. I desired to have a job, and got it (though not before going through such an emotional, mental and physical rollercoaster that spanned years). Then shortly after, I wanted to become a manager, and I didn’t feel I was in the right environment at work. I felt that the people around me were not supportive of my success. Initially, I thought I wasn’t good enough to cut it, then I started to realize maybe that’s what they want me to think. That I had believed an illusion placed by those who thought I might be a threat. I didn’t want to become like my manager. I wasn’t inspired. I had only worked so hard, and I started to resent the people who were supposed to be helping me. I felt like there’s nothing I could do because everything is up to them. So I went for the positive: I sought the good things at work– the positive characteristics of my manager, the many wonderful perks of my work environment, etc. Then I realized, they are not trying to sabotage me deliberately. I started asking for a promotion. And asking again. And again, at all meetings with my manager. The problem with the latter is, my manager never keeps our meetings. So it is so much work to even have her in the same room to chat about anything. Promises were made, that didn’t happen. This is when I realized that the issue wasn’t that they want to prevent me from rising, but that they didn’t care enough for me. Another possible reason is that they didn’t know how to develop talent. A less-than-stellar environment, nonetheless, because I didn’t feel like I was in the right environment to grow.

So I am saying goodbye to that environment, for one that offers the promise of the higher position which I had been seeking for quite some time now. Yet, despite all of these, the work environment that I had left also possessed great characteristics. I liked the team – the people are fun, welcoming and I feel I’ve adapted to them. We’ve bonded as a team, and our dynamic is quite special. We hang out even after work, and we are also good friends. I’ve gone out with them to parties, bars, etc. I like them as people.

On the week that I left, many people on the team have expressed their sadness because I’m leaving. They expressed that the people on the team didn’t take care of me enough, which is why I left. Everybody thinks that my leaving for a better opportunity is a great choice, more than staying on the very team of which they are a member. How ironic. Some regret the fact that I’m leaving, for an opportunity that I could’ve been given on the team, but they also know that it’s a better choice for me to root for the former than the latter. Every single person I talked to is very supportive of me taking this new opportunity. In some way, this is quite validating, to know that you are needed and you will be missed. How do I begin to say goodbye to these people? I said my goodbyes, I had a send off, I sent out a group email… I did what I can to provide some closure for myself and our working relationship as well.

I hope I’ve made by stay there memorable. I wonder how I’ve made it memorable. Many mentioned my work ethic, friendship, and perhaps my difference in perspective. Indeed, I was so different from the group – I’m one of two minorities, an immigrant, a foreigner, a non-Midwesterner… in a group where many were born and raised in the Midwest. My goodbye may be the boldest and most memorable move I’d made in that office – it is a powerful statement to leave, considering what I represent in that team. For the Asian American networking group I started, where I was still different but felt more comfortable being a member, it was hard to say goodbye. How do you say goodbye to a group you started, a group that you think possess so much promise as a representative group for Asian Americans in the agency? These are the things that are hard to leave.

As I say goodbye to my old group, to my work friends, to my former agency, to my many different selves from the distant and recent pasts… the question remains: how do you know when is the right time to say goodbye? How do you discern what or who to say goodbye to, so that you let go of what you don’t need anymore but keep what you still want to develop? It’s not always easy to answer, whether inside the moment or outside.