Tuesday was my last day as a teacher at the International Secondary School. Last week my son finished grade 7 and my daughter finished grade 4. My writer’s brain searches for meaning in everything, so I can’t help but wonder what it all means – starting, finishing, seasons, changes – all of it. But now, after two days of processing, I don’t think it means all that much.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, there are still milestones to mark, boxes to tick off, and occasions to note and celebrate, but maybe certain things do not have to be dwelled upon ad nauseum. There are millions of books, articles, blog posts and poems written about startings and endings, and everything in between, but maybe it’s okay to just acknowledge the change and simply move on.
I’m saying this because we, as a society, have become fixated on these ideas. Our kindergarteners graduate, our fifth graders graduate and our eighth graders graduate. There is pomp and presents at every turn. Maybe sometimes we have to just relax and move through things quietly. Maybe sometimes we can stop and reflect quietly without a ticker-tape parade.
In Tokyo the expat community is contracting severely. Banks are moving operations to other countries, as are various large firms, so many foreigners are moving not home, but to another place in order to keep their jobs. So this year, not only is the year ending for the international schools, but with so many people moving, things will look very different when school re-opens in the fall. Those of us staying are mourning the loss of their friends to whom we have been close and secretly wondering if they know something we don’t know. But I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. I want to let it all slide by me. There’s nothing I can do about it, so I am avoiding the bigger parties and concentrating on spending one-on-one time with my friends who are leaving. Normally I feel pretty excited at this time of year as I ready myself and the kids to take our long summer holiday in the U.S. But this year, I just want to quietly mark and pass the time. I want to wish my friends well in their new lives, and prepare to move forward with my own.
There is something to be said for simple, quiet reflection. Celebration and the special marking of the passage of time are all good in their place, but this year, I’m all about it the quiet reflection.