I may have only told you in recent weeks or perhaps you’ve known for a few months, but I’ve known I’d be ‘leaving’ for about 9 months. My visa was approved waaayy faster than I ever anticipated and since then I’ve been making intentional decisions that enabled me to leave. I signed a short lease, I chose to stick out the time in a challenging work environment, I stopped seeking any significant relationships and I stopped buying stuff (okay, perhaps that last one happened a little later than it should have). I was leaving. But most of those were just decisions for convenience sake.
Leaving has been about more than that and more than about just me. Yes, I am going off on an adventure. But life is about relationships and my leaving for a grandiose adventure means leaving people behind – for better or for worse. I am surrounded by people who love me, who challenge me, who inspire me and who laugh with me. And I (hopefully) reciprocate that for those around me.
And so, 9 months ago I decided I was going to try and leave well. I had no idea what that would look like, but for more than 8 months now I’ve been trying.
Pretty early on it got exhausting keeping this exciting (and terrifying) impending adventure to myself. Life is supposed to be shared. So leaving well meant telling people early, particularly those I see most often: my close friends, the girls at work, and then later my managers, my pastor and then later my church family. I gave them months of notice. To me it felt like ages, but for others the 3 (and even up to 6) months’ notice was not enough. I hate to think my leaving impacts others, it suggests I have a self-inflated sense of self. Perhaps so, but I think back to when a friend left Brisbane 12 months ago and the sense of loneliness I had following. Change is hard and loss hurts. Knowing it’s coming and preparing for it can only ease that challenge. (Or perhaps not, they’re like “Mel, get going already!” Perhaps I should have gone for the bandaid approach. Rip it off, mic drop and leave. Alas. Sorry if that was you!)
I think leaving well for me has been about closure. Reflecting on this Brisbane chapter of my life, my mid-20s and the learnings I had and then moving forward again. A couple of weeks ago I wandered along a Sunshine Coast beach just reflecting and being thankful for blessings + learnings from it. I’ve spent time scrolling through Instagram, reminscing on Queensland adventures I’ve had. I know I’m the strongest physically I’ve been (despite 12 months of on and off again injuries). I’m also thankful I waited until I was mentally strong and not running away as I would had been 9 months ago.
It’s also been saying goodbye to and acknowledging the significance of the people who I’ve done even just a short part of these 3 years with. Although I love a party, I have filled the past 6 weeks individually catching up with people + small groups. I’ve had meals with old managers and laughed with dear friends. I stopped by my old running group (despite the fact I had to break up with them 3 months ago because a girl who can’t run ain’t much good). I thanked the gym trainers who have taught the classes I’ve attended. I met with work suppliers and gave notice to others. Leaving well was about pouring into the relationships that I made in this chapter.
Perhaps a favourite component of leaving well has involved stopping by old haunts, favourite cafes and finally getting to the places still left on the list. From Moreton Bay bug dumplings, to gingerbread pancakes, sweet potato waffles, a whole lotta tacos and plenty of vino + my tequila vice, leaving made its mark…for which I’m thankful I’ve had a trainer to motivate me to counter all the excess (but not at all regreted) sugar + fat + booze.
I wrote a mental bucket list of the things I wanted to do before I left. This largely involved physical challenges – climbing mountains, exploring Brisbane on my bike, and in Saturday’s case, riding up Brisbane’s Mount Coot-tha. Sadly I didn’t make it out to Girraween NP, but perhaps it’s a reason to come back.
I’m most thankful for the time a few key people made to help me leave well. To pray with me and for me, to check in on how I was doing, to challenge me to think about what the Canada chapter of my life could look like…and to offer North American-based family members and friends to call in case of emergency, even if it’s a jail bail out.
Sunday was my last week at church where I have spent 2 years trying to help people connect with our community. And I was also moved by some of the newer people at church, many of whom I hardly know well, stopping by and saying goodbye. I was sad that I would have likely overlooked them in my leaving well process. I hope in taking time to try and leave well, I have provided an opportunity for a sense of closure.
I don’t know if I’ll return. Many of those I’ve mentioned above have begged me to return or reminded me how quickly I acclimated to Brisbane’s very temperate conditions. It’s true. I have loved Brisbane. It has been very good for me. I have loved the outdoor lifestyle and how I settled into an even more active lifestyle I never expected for myself. I mean, padded Lycra pants and a road bike? A gym membership? I hardly recognise myself. I have also loved living life in a 3 kilometre radius and complaining about driving longer than 20 minutes into the suburbs. After years of commuting >2 hours a day, jumping in an Uber home from a night out, or the quick 8 minute bike ride to work, or a slow 40min meander home were so welcome. I have loved my river views apartment with a non-sarcastic pretty price tag. I might return. I might not.
I don’t know what the future holds, but I could control how I left and how I move forward. I hope I’ve done it well.