If I had to write a novel about my life, I’d probably call it “Felicia and her Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Goodbye Skills.”
You can ask Natalie, my roommate for two and a half years. It didn’t matter whether we were leaving for a four-day Thanksgiving vacation or a four-month study abroad semester. I always left with an emotional hug and lots of “I’ll miss yous.” She usually gave into my hugs and left with an affectionate eye roll.
Despite my emotional goodbyes, I always knew they weren’t for long. In fact, I’ve never said goodbye to a person or place while knowing that goodbye would be the last.
So as I approach the one-week mark before I board the plane to return to the United States, I’m struggling with the concept of saying goodbye to Australia, potentially forever. How do you say a final goodbye to a place that was your home for four months?
Don’t get me wrong — I’m all for a Justin Bieber-esque belting of “Never Say Never,” but in real life, “never” has a much greater potential than those inspirational songs let on.
Before I came to Australia, I often had people asking why I chose to come here. Boston University also has strong journalism internship programs in London and Dublin, two English-speaking countries much closer to the United States.
My go-to response was that I chose Australia because “When else would I go there?” Most Americans have never hopped on a plane for 17 hours — and that’s from California — to visit one of the farthest places from their home. And I was fairly certain that if I didn’t go now, I would never go.
Once I arrived here and started organizing my travel plans, I had the realization that I’d never be able to see everything I wanted to in four months.
I won’t get a chance to go to other nearby countries, such as New Zealand and Bali, and I won’t get to travel up and down the east and west coasts to see all of Australia’s most populated cities. Four months just isn’t enough time to see an entire country that is geographically almost the same size as the United States, while also leaving that country to explore the ones surrounding it.
Pretty quickly, I started having the thought that many other people on my program had: “I have to come back here someday.”
But as I kept the idea of returning in the back of my mind, I was simultaneously planning my future — my last year of college, my immediate post-graduation plans, my ideal career.
Everything about my life is speeding ahead, and time for travel beyond college will be limited. On top of that, as much as I’d love to return to Australia, there are more than 190 countries that I’ve never seen. The next time I have the time and money to travel, I’ll be eager to try something entirely new.
So with this realization in mind, I now must confront my terrible goodbye skills.
At the end of the week, I’ll leave the Parramatta Advertiser for the last time, saying goodbye to an office I’ll most likely never return to and a team of inspiring editors and reporters who I’ll probably never work with again.
And at the end of next week, I’ll say goodbye to this country, reluctantly accepting that I haven’t seen everything I’d like to see and I may never see it all.
In preparation for one of the hardest goodbyes I’ve ever had to prepare to say, I’m trying to keep checking off items on my mental bucket list. Still to go: eat kangaroo, eat a meat pie and eat an Anzac biscuit.
As someone who usually lives off her to-do lists and shopping lists, I’m surprisingly against writing my bucket lists down on paper. Once I have a physical copy, there will be a certain number of items that will receive a check mark and others that I will fail to complete.
But I refuse for this study abroad experience to focus on the things I didn’t get a chance to do.
When I get on the plane next Thursday and watch as the Sydney skyline gets smaller and smaller, I will undoubtedly feel a pang of sadness. But I refuse for that sadness to be for the things I didn’t do.
Instead, I want the sadness to be a reaction to the incredible experience I had that has now come to a close.
Goodbyes are not easy, and for an emotional hugger like myself, goodbyes are even harder — especially because I can’t exactly hug Sydney goodbye.
But maybe this “never” doesn’t have to be a bad thing. I may never step foot in Sydney again, but the memories will stick with me, and the experience has changed me for good.
And in the end, that kind of invaluable, ever-lasting change was all that really mattered.