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Eye of the Optimist-Parting

Here I am at the end of my vacation in my home town, packing it up and preparing for the voyage back to my life far away. It has been a full week of reviewing life histories including mine, taking stalk of profound ongoing changes and saying good-bye yet again. It seems to me that parting takes up so much of life's space, activities and emotions, especially contemporary modern life.

Parting: parting ways, parting concepts, choosing sides, semantic processes of refinement and invention, re-classifications, divisions, re-castings, make-overs, departures from people and places, regrouping, and so on. In many ways, humans are always ending something or leaving something or someone; I guess it is a facet of change.

I had this epiphony while listening to writers tell an audience about some autobiographical stories they had been spilling onto paper. Not only were they releasing recollections of events from their life experience, they were setting free words into the open air. We in the audience were asked to think of and write down one word that encapsulated our response or experience of listening to the stories. I wrote "parting". One writer spoke about parting company with their children, another about childhood death while a third talked about parting with a self-image. These writers were introduced with a commendation for their willingness and courage to release the stories and words, so I thought of that activity as another kind of parting. Their storytelling also involved defining and categorizing experiences, which can be thought of as another sense of the word, "parting". Leaving this event, I continued to think about parting.

In the last few weeks, I have been reuniting with people with whom I parted some years ago, then revisited and parted again, and so I had to part yet again. Discussing my plans with these people, the question as to where I would live in the next two to five years came up, and I explained my intentions to part with South Korea and English teaching. 

All sorts of partings became evident in my interactions and conversations. The topics of old age and death in old age also came up. There were confessions and sharings of such experiences. Parting can be a long and involved process, as in the case of a dear departed one or the case of the transition from able to less able elder. I suppose some philosophers might well say that it is a life-long process. Some cases such as these and others were about physical moves of residence, which can also be a big transition. Then there is the change in employment or job status, topics which indeed came up more than a couple of times. 

Then there were the incidents of break-ups. I heard about associations engaged in rancorous and messy splits. You know, people can simply announce they are ready to make a change and thank the teachers, organizers and coworkers/ associates without finding blame, getting angry, and denouncing the former association, but people behave those ways a lot when it is time to make a change, especially in this town. It is not one of the most admirable features of my hometown. Of course longer term associations and more intimate associations like romance and marriage tend to be more emotionally charged and the unwieldy and out-of-control sentiments are easier to appreciate for the greater difficulties in managing that kind of change. However, changing social, community, musical, recreational, sport, educational and the like should pass much more smoothly and rationally, but they don't usually, in my experience. Go figure.

Of course, aging and travel requires parting with memories and memorabilia. On this particular trip, I threw out items stored for decades. It was a last farewell to treasured keepsakes and documents but one has to part with them sooner or later. I think it is good to keep personal history and present life in balance, so that we can enjoy and review cherished and important memories without living too deeply within memory. I find it helps to keep on track for personal development and achieving new goals by ridding myself of excess baggage of the past; it is decisive and categorical action.

I could have found somewhere else to go for a holiday this year. That's what I did the two previous summers. The fact is, though, that my roots are here, and I cannot completely uproot myself or avoid tripping over them when I am here. Those roots compel me to revisit them from time to time, and I am constantly challenged to find new locations for growing and extending myself and my dreams. 

My departure from life here and the subsequent visits and partings make me ever more conscious that places are altered and new places arise. One is always faced with the question, "Where in life next?" Where am I going to reside in the future? How will that alter my identity, associations, purpose and occupation in the future?

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