Staying Behind Poorly

Recently, I came upon this article on how to leave poorly. While partly tongue in cheek and humorous, there is also some truth to it. I can relate. The last few months have been stressful, filled with challenges, and I am SO done and ready to get outta here! Nevertheless, I continue to try to make the most of our remaining time here and try to make a graceful exit.

This article got me thinking, though. What about those who aren’t moving on and are being left behind? In my lifetime, I’ve moved countless times and have had many, many friends who have moved away, so I’m used to leaving and being left behind. When we decided to move back to the U.S. from Thailand, we were sad about leaving friends, but we all made the most of our time together, and have even visited each other a few times since our move back home. There were no hard feelings; we all understood we all have to do what’s best for our own families. It’s also easy to stay in touch nowadays with such easy-to-access and easy-to-use technological advances.

But even with all the goodbyes I’ve said and endured, I’ve never encountered reactions from those staying such as the ones my family and I have experienced in the last few months. It’s felt as if we were in the twilight zone, experiencing something surreal.

The reactions that my husband received from his supervisors and colleagues when he told them of our decision can be seen as indifference at best. It was a little hurtful because my husband have always had very good relationships with his colleagues and had truly enjoyed working with this group of people. He had thought they felt the same about working with him.

As for those with whom we were friendly and whose children are friends with our son, they didn’t react well. Throughout this past year, we saw each other socially on occasion, and our children played together frequently. Once they knew of our decision to leave, we were persona non grata; they seemed to take our decision personally. While they were still polite and cordial with us, the invitations, conversations, and friendships seemed to stop overnight. When we happened to be together in the same room, they would make plans with each other, acting as if we weren’t standing there as well.

At first, I thought I was imagining things or that I was being too sensitive. But my husband, who isn’t usually as sensitive to social dynamics as I am, also picked up on these odd behaviors. Not having experienced this type of passive aggressive behavior from other expats in the past, I was completely taken aback by it. I was under the impression that I left this type of infantile behavior behind when I finished high school, but apparently, I was wrong.

This week, a good friend of my son’s has been lashing out at him. This boy has a history of moodiness, and has made insensitive comments in the past, but it was usually in passing and would blow over quickly. This week, however, was different, and it took my son completely by surprise and upset him.

For the past few weeks, my son and this friend had been getting along well, according to my son. This past weekend, they had a sleepover, along with a couple of other kids, at our house. Everyone seemed to have a good time and all went well. So my son was taken aback when, starting on Monday, his friend began to say unkind things to him, telling my son he no longer wanted him as a friend, that my son was “bad” and “annoying,” among other things. When my son told us what was going on, we advised him to ignore the comments, thinking they would stop if the boy didn’t get the attention and reaction he was seeking.

We were wrong. After three days of these comments with no reaction from my son, this boy decided to send my son a couple of hurtful emails, including one telling him “goodbye and good riddance.” He even implicated another mutual friend of theirs, who hasn’t been involved in any of this whatsoever. This email upset my son deeply. It felt cold and mean-spirited, and we felt we couldn’t simply ignore it, so we decided to bring it to the principal’s and teacher’s attention.

At this point, we’ve come to terms with the reactions from everyone. We know we can’t control others’ reactions and behaviors, but we can control our own, and we’ve decided the best course is to let it go. All this unnecessary drama has taken an emotional toll on us, and we are tired. We simply want to finish our year here and say goodbye quietly.

For those who are going through the same situation–whether you are the one leaving or the one staying–use the remaining time wisely. It’s an emotional and challenging time for everyone involved, and you’re not alone. For those staying, know that your friend’s decision to leave is not personal and not a rejection of you. Talk with each other, support each other, and make your friendship a priority now and in the future, if that’s what you decide. Being apart doesn’t mean goodbye. It simply means “see you again in another part of the world” and that you will have a friend in yet another place in this world.

[Photo by Alex Talmon on Unsplash]

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