As I come to the end of another year, I also come to the end of a season in my life. In 2017, I will be living in a different state and by the end of the year I will have made a permanent move overseas. As I sort my belongings into 'keep', 'sell', and 'donate' piles, I have thought a lot about what it means to be leaving.
Firstly, I am leaving the community I have lived in for the past two years. Then, in a few more months' time, I will be leaving my family and closest friends behind for distant shores.
It's exciting to move onto the next stage of life, to step out and explore a brand new season. But 'next' and 'new' require a departure from the 'previous', 'present', and 'old'.
I have made a lot of transitions in my life and it's something I actually quite enjoy, but the art of leaving well is something I think needs some attention. Let this story about a recent overseas trip give you an example of just how bad I am at leaving.
After spending the morning working on an essay, I ran out of the house with just enough time to get to the airport. I was cradling my hand luggage, which at this point was unzipped and stuffed to overflowing with all of the things I needed to pack into it. I had no shoes on, and halfway to the airport discovered that I had left my passport in the photocopier.
I happen to live with enough people that I could get my bags checked in while a friend located my passport and drove it to the airport, minutes before I was due to pass through security and board the flight. I then completed the essay on the plane and submitted it in transit before leaving the country.
I was only away for 10 days and, as I'm sure you can now imagine, found it very hard to get into the headspace of actually being in a completely different region of the world.
I had to keep consciously reminding myself that I was on the trip I had so been looking forward to, but I wasn't feeling the way I had expected. My mind and heart hadn't been given the chance to catch up with my body, and I was back home before it felt like I had even left.
In the process of moving away more permanently, and being around other people who are doing the same, I overheard a conversation about allowing time in transition to say goodbye properly to the people, places, and things being left behind, and to grieve in the present moment. This idea sounded revolutionary. Who would have thought about giving myself emotional closure?
As the idea of 'leaving well' floated around in my mind, the so-called 'RAFT' approach to leaving seemed to come up in quite a few conversations. It is an idea from David Pollock and Ruth Van Reken's book The Third Culture Kid Experience and gives insight into how to not just deal with transition well but to grow from the process.
Becoming a R.A.F.T. builder
'R' is for Reconciliation
Reconciliation is about making sure relationships are restored, issues are dealt with, and forgiveness is offered and sought where required.
'A' is for Affirmation
Relationships which are in a good place need acknowledgement. Celebrate the blessing this period of life has been, and properly grieve what is being left behind.
'F' is for Farewells
Say goodbye! It's not just about people, but also places and things. Spend time saying goodbye and creating the closure required to move on.
'T' is for Think Destination
Take time to consider where you're going, and form educated, realistic expectations of what it's going to be like. Give space for the anticipation to build.
Maybe it's for the everyday too
As I've considered this concept of leaving well, and particularly the process of RAFT building, it strikes me as a tool that would benefit daily life, not just 'leaving life'.
'R' and 'A' remind us to seek reconciliation in relationships, and actively affirm right relationships in both the day to day and in the process of leaving seems. 'F' encourages mindfulness, to choose to engage in each moment. 'T' promotes evaluation of expectations, which is a powerful key to the way we are affected by and react to people, places and things.
Chloe is an Australian writer. She loves weekend breakfasts with friends, and embraces life as an extrovert, a detail-oriented thinker, and a verbal processor.
Chloe's previous articles may be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/chloe-alexander.html