I remember when I left my first real job. I had been working there for only about 2 years when I decided that I needed a new challenge and it was time to tackle my master’s degree, so I resigned. On my last day there, my colleagues threw me a surprise party. They gave me gifts, beautiful words, and an outpouring of love. It was absolutely unexpected that they would have had a function for me – I was a junior member of the team – and their words took me by surprise because I didn’t know the impact that I had on any of them. I was a blubbering mess by the time my going away party was over.
In the 15 years since then, I have left a few other jobs through promotion, transfer, resignation or redundancy. In almost every case, I left without acknowledgement and in the few cases where my departure was acknowledged with a going-away function, there were no sincerely soft feelings and definitely no tears.
Until last week.
I didn’t expect to be anything but happy when my JEXIT launch started on Saturday. Remember those tears of relief I thought I’d shed as the plane wheels left Indonesian soil? There were none. I had exactly zero tears of relief to cry on Saturday. However, there were lots of tears of sorrow.
I know, right?? Shocked the heck outta me too.
It was all because of the people. During my last few days in Jakarta, there was an outporing of love that I didn’t expect. Yes, I expected nice words of goodbye because those guys are genuinely nice people. But I didn’t expect love. It came at me from every direction – from the high school students who hang out at the centre almost every day, from a few of the local volunteers, and from the girl who lives at the centre.
It was all so unexpected because they never gave any indication before that my presence had any impact on them. But as they each came to say goodbye, they told me how much my being there meant to them. They said that my words of wisdom helped them. They said that I gave them confidence to believe that they could do things they didn’t know they had the ability to do. They called me “Princess.” They told me how my dependability gave them peace of mind. They wished me long life, happiness and love. They brought me gifts.
I tried to fight it but for 4 days straight, I broke down in tears: as the high school students gave me their memory books and gifts; as they sang “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth for me on my last night; as I sang “Three Little Birds” by Bob Marley for them; as my non-crying friend, who I didn’t realise I had grown to love, looked at me with tears in her eyes and said she couldn’t bring herself to order her Go-Jek because she didn’t want to leave me; as I hugged her goodbye with hope in my heart that we will meet again some day; as I read the words that the girl who lives at the centre wrote to me, words of appreciation for the times we shared together; as I hugged her goodbye while Toto waited to take me to the airport; as I said a benediction over my ex-colleague who I was leaving behind to manage things; as Toto and I drove up Jalan Cipinang Jaya for the last time and he admonished me to ensure that I return to Jakarta some day; as I sat at the airport and thought of them all, knowing that I will not see most of them again.
I didn’t know. I didn’t know that I had come to mean anything to them.
I wondered why I should feel sorrow at leaving. After all, back in July when I left for my vacation, all I felt was relief. But I think in the ensuing months, my Jakarta relationships grew and I didn’t know how much they had come to mean to me. So when it came time to leave, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be.
So as I sit and write this, I feel deeply moved and humbled that God saw it fit to bless me with the opportunity to meet these specific people. I have learned much from them about simple goodness. I pray that I will always carry them in my heart, which is now all the better for having them there.