Saying Goodbyes


I binged on The Repair Shop episodes on my last business trip to Europe. If you’re not familiar with the program – it’s a TV program that airs on BBC in the UK, showcasing a team of talented experts: furniture restorer, saddle maker, clock restorer, blacksmith, and many more. Each episode includes three visitors who come into the barn, each with a broken object that has a deep personal connection to them. Often with tears streaming down my face, I greeted the air crew who asked whether I was ready for my next dinner course. Living in an adopted homeland, and not having many things that tie me directly to my parents and to my ancestors create a craving and appreciation of those who still have strong connections to those before them.

Compared to Yani, I’m the sentimental one – thankfully, I also have a strong sensible side so I don’t end up being a hoarder. Folding our laundry this evening, I mentioned to Yani that we would have to put more clothes to the donation bin as we’re running out of space. I tend not to have any attachment to business shirts, so I’m happy to donate or get rid of the ones that need to be chucked out. There are trousers and shirts that I keep in denial – just in case I could reach the same weight I had in my 20s or 30s. Maybe I like to be reminded as well that I was once lighter and with a smaller waist. Ha!

On the other hand, I often have attachment to the t-shirts I have. Maybe this is a common ailment among men as I often hear women say that their husband or partner wouldn’t throw away their old t-shirts. One reason is that old t-shirts feel so comfortably cool as nightshirt! On the sentimental side, each t-shirt has a story for me – for example, one was given to me by some Dutch exchange students from Enschede for my 21st birthday, the other was bought as a memento after I saw Ibrahim Ferrer and the Buena Vista Social Club in Singapore, and one was bought when I went to Tromsø, Norway for a holiday. I have t-shirts that are older than some of my nieces and nephews.

As my t-shirts fade or deteriorate, they are relegated to being my nightshirts. Newer t-shirts signifying more recent experiences and trips take over their spots. Then comes a time when I have too many nightshirts, that the ones that are looking worse for wear need to be relieved from their misery. It is with this in mind that I started a relatively recent habit.

I now bring a couple of old t-shirts that are being retired on my overseas trips. It’s a last hurrah for them to end their lifecycle in foreign places. Recently, I left one in Düsseldorf, one in a motel in Dunedin, one was let go in Amsterdam, whereas one had its goodbye in an airport hotel in Paris. The last t-shirt I let go was left in a motel in Surabaya, Indonesia. A t-shirt I bought after I watched Cirque du Soleil’s Alegria in Singapore in 2002. It finished its duty. I don’t have any ceremony, or thank them for their service like Marie Kondo, I simply put them in the bin.

As I’m getting ready for future trips, I have made mental notes on the ones I will say goodbye too. Life is continuous opportunities of letting go, and making room for new experiences.