A few days ago, I told some students that I was leaving. Most reacted like I’d just told some fact of no importance. Some were sad and gave me and my colleagues, who are also leaving, hugs. Two third grade girls cried ENDLESSLY, one very silent, but the other so loud I thought she was joking at first.

Through tears and hiccups she explained she was sad that she’d never see us again and that teachers kept coming and going. What she said made me feel really bad, but I didn’t cry. I empathized deeply with how she felt. I think I was very much like her when I was younger – deeply attached to people, places, things (both materials and immaterial). I can’t remember many specific examples, just that as I watcher her cry I felt like I was watching my younger self. All I could do was console her and try to explain that people will come and go in your life and that’s just something we all have to get used to.

What got me to embrace transience (and shun attachment) was my declining swim career. I had been steadily increasing and then hit a wall. I couldn’t get past it no matter what I did. I couldn’t achieve the goals I’d set for myself, that I’d attached my success to. Over several years I had to convince myself to let go of my expectations. I began to practice this non-attachment with regards to people and relationships too. And I like who I am more now after these changes. I’m still an unfortunate hoarder of sentimental objects (or objects that I think may be useful in the future), but I go with the flow. My interactions with some people still have incredible effects on me, but I don’t try and maintain status quos when circumstances change (i.e. moving away, changing jobs, etc.). Rather I put these experiences on a mental shelf and pull them out at will. I think that’s why I like storytelling. It gives me an excuse to dig around in memories. But these third graders have nothing to fear: in our digital age we can be in contact despite being thousands of kilometers away. I reassured them we could keep in touch via email, Facebook, or LINE (a messaging app popular in TW). I told them if they write me, I’ll respond because as long as they want to be my friend, I’ll be there’s.

I may regret this because it’s been a few days and several of them have already messaged me copious amount of stickers. But I probably won’t.