One of the realities of living on a rock is that people are constantly coming in and out of your life. Island life, for many expats, often comprises just a chapter or two in the personal story - a stepping stone for a brief stop-over before heading back into the "real world." In my four years in Cayman (I cannot believe it's been four years!), I've said goodbye to dozens of friends, acquaintances, work colleagues, and neighbours. Every person I've ever bade "adieu" to has definitely impacted my life - some in more positive ways than ever. I've come to realize that there are different levels of goodbye on the island - from the goodbyes that make you cheer with joy to those that result in an ugly cry. For simplicity sake, I've labeled them levels 1-4.
Let me explain:
1) Level 1 Goodbye: Don't let the American Airlines cabin door hit you in the ass
"That's not how we do things in insert name of country here." Once these dreaded words are uttered by an island "newb," you can expect a hasty island exit in 6-8 months time. The "it's better in my home country" folk never make it on the island, and if they do manage to stick around for longer than a year, they leave a trail of misery in their wake. It's even worse if the "knows better" newb is a co-worker. You can expect that instead of just performing the job duties, this person is spending every minute ranting and raving about how broken the system is in comparison to that of their motherland. Nothing makes the office cheer with happiness more than a letter of resignation from a "knows better."
Lucky for me, I've only met a couple of these incredibly irritating people, and I have to be admit that the goodbye is more of a celebration than anything else.
Tear level: 0
1 cheer of happiness
2) Level 2 Goodbye: We're here for a good time, not a long time
Some people make it very clear upon introduction that they will not be sticking around. I'd like to call these people the "next best thing." Although this person is not complaining like the above, he/she makes it very clear that this particular rock is simply a stepping stone on the way to bigger and better things. Which is totally cool. I've learned, however, to never get too attached to the "next best thing." You may enjoy a few great office coffee break chats or a fun drunken day on a boat trip together, but you never divulge too much about yourself, nor do you really learn a whole lot about what makes this person tick. This is definitely a surface relationship, and surface relationships are just fine!
Tear Level: 1 tear 💧("remember that one time we got super drunk together...that was so fun! Sniff sniff.")
3) Level 3 Goodbye: Hey! I'm going to miss you!
Friends are awesome and it sucks when they leave the island. A level 3 friendship is one in which you legitimately bonded with another human. You texted, you found yourself in deep conversations at parties and happy hours, and you lamented about the "knows betters." You got along great! Although this person may not know your intimate secrets and greatest insecurities, he/she is an important part of your life. When this person leaves the island, initially, you might not realize how much his/her absence impacts your life. But then one day, you see 4 chickens chasing a rooster with a slice of pizza in it's mouth and you think, "Man, insert friend's here would have died to see this!"
Tear level: 💧💧💧a solid 3 tears, maybe 4 when you've been drinking red wine.
4) Level 4 Goodbye: I think my heart just broke in half
If you are very very lucky in life, you will encounter the rare level 4 relationship on the island - an island bestie. A level 4 island relationship is much like having a best friend in kindergarten. You meet each other when you are innocent, naive, and an open book. Think about how you met friends as a child - you simply encountered a kid you liked, asked them to be your friend, and then instantly became best friends, sharing Barbies and My Little Ponies with ease. Interestingly, as adults, we rarely allow ourselves to be so vulnerable with another person so soon. We slowly reveal our quirks and oddities, careful to present only the best version of ourselves. We analyze our relationships ("What did she mean when she said x?" "Was she judging me when I said y?").
When I moved to Cayman, sight unseen, I had to change my game plan as I was desperate to make a friend as soon as possible. I was scared. I was lonely. I felt incredibly intimidated, and I just really hoped that I would meet someone likeminded, kind,...and FUN! There was no time to play hard to get. Lucky for me, I met my island besties during the first week of work! The three of us instantly clicked, groaning about the long-ass orientation days and celebrating in each island success (We got our driver's licenses! whoot!). Within a few boozy happy hours, we had revealed our greatest fears, our greatest challenges, and our greatest successes. I watched one of my island besties become a wife and then I watched both of my island besties become mothers. They became my surgery cheerleaders and even threw me a celebratory 10th knee surgery happy hour. They can tell, just by reading my facial and body language, when I am angry, annoyed, worried, happy, and extremely intoxicated. These girls accept me at my best and at my worse and, man, can they make me laugh! Although it's only been 4 years, our relationship was fast and furious, and I can't communicate clearly just how important these women have been in my life.
Unfortunately with the rare level 4 relationship comes the agonizing Level 4 goodbye. Rationally, you understand why your island bestie is leaving the rock to start a new chapter. You stay strong for your buddy, encouraging her and reassuring her that this move will be great. You want the best for your island bestie, but your heart breaks when you embrace goodbye. You head to your first happy hour without her and feel a sense of emptiness when you no longer hear her hearty trademark laugh - the laugh that used to calm you when you felt out of place and intimated.
But...the brilliant thing about the island bestie is...it's not a goodbye forever. It can't be! Dammit, she's got too much dirt on you! She will always be a part of your life - maybe not daily life on the rock, but you will both make that extra effort to stay in close contact.
Tear Level: 💦💦💦💦💦💦💦💦💦The Caribbean Sea could not hold the amount of tears that you shed.
So, Kat, my island girl, instead of saying, "goodbye," I bid you a "soon come."