Why does it hurt so much? When people move on.
The reality is that at some point, all of us do. Whether it is changing jobs, moving to a new country, getting divorced, starting a new hobby, buying a motorbike. Change is inevitable and at the best of times we don’t even know when that opportunity for change is going to come our way. Sometimes it comes suddenly and you have to make quick decisions and trust that your 6th sense is guiding you in the right direction. Other times it is something that you see in your distant future and when it gradually comes closer and closer, you make well thought through decisions and still have time to change direction.
Many moons ago, 2001, to be exact, we met our very good friends, James and Judy. Living opposite each other in a block of flats next to the Thameslink railway, we became friends who spent nearly every weekend together. Being South African too, there was already a connection. Missing our friends and family back home, and going through tough times in a foreign country, having friends like them was like an anchor in a stormy sea. But three years later their Australian visas were granted and we had to say goodbye. Driving back home from Heathrow airport, my heart was in a thousand shattered pieces. I realised that was what it must feel when someone close to you passes away. A feeling of utter loneliness, sadness and a tumbledrier of mixed emotions. I could not stop crying – our friends were starting a new life without us. Part of me was so angry too – did our friendship mean so little to them that it was so easy for them to leave us? Which was of course very stupid of me. And totally irrational. It was also the reality that we would have to start all over again, and look for new friends.
Returning to South Africa in 2009, was never an easy transition either. Our old friends had moved on and again, we had to build new friendships. It takes time and doesn’t happen overnight. But Yolande and I bonded instantly, our 2year olds, being friends at nursery school. Even though we lived quite far away from each other, we had weekly pizza-and-wine playdates and we shared secrets, tears of joy and sadness and had many memorable moments. When she therefore gave me the news, in 2013, that they were moving to Cape Town, it felt like a part of me had died. There was that awful feeling AGAIN! One of indescribable loss and a sadness I was convinced would never ever go away. No more Friday afternoon playdates, or a quick cup of coffee at Heathway Centre. My word, I don’t know how many tissue boxes I emptied.
Sara moved back to the UK at the end of last year, we all knew it was going to happen eventually. It doesn’t make the goodbyes easier or less painful. Laura moved her son to another school, which was also going to happen at some point. But I expected that to happen next year rather than within two days! When I arrive at school, I subconsciously still find myself looking out for their cars. AON1 and FB registration plates. And then my heart feels just a little bit heavy knowing I won’t see them there anymore. No more quick chats at collection time or cheering together at sports days.
Over the years I have realised that I cannot replace these friends with others. Those times and memories are unique and when people move on, they have not disappeared and it doesn’t mean the end of a friendship. It is only their “place” in my life that changes. And it is a great adventure when new friends enter your circle, because it opens up new chapters with new memories.
All I say is, thank goodness for Kleenex.