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Binoculars of grief and gain

Tuesday November 14, 2006

Douglas Ota

Kids: don?t read this article if you have never used binoculars. While you don?t need to be an avid nature lover or birdwatcher armed with the latest model, the message here will fly straight past you if you?ve never tried to focus something with one of these optical aids.

This article is about moving; not in the sense of shaking or feeling unsteady when using binoculars, but in the very real sense of packing up and shipping your life and relationships to another location, or perhaps when people you know or care about move on, leaving you behind. Inevitably you will feel that no matter how carefully the movers box your wares, your belongings always look and feel different at the other end. It is often only when you unpack, or perhaps when you return to school for the first time since your friend has left, that you suddenly feel in your gut just how profoundly things have changed. It may well seem as though life as you knew it has stopped. Nothing is the same ? including your own identity. Nobody knows you, what you?ve been through, or what you?re good at. You wonder how this mountain of boxes and feelings will ever be rearranged into something that looks and feels like ?your life? again.

Weighing up the losses and gains

The most essential tool you will need when you first move abroad is a pair of binoculars, albeit hypothetical. And these are no ordinary binoculars either. Odd though this may seem to you, in the experience of relocating, you always need to remember that two processes are underway: one is grief, the other is gain. Through one lens of these grief and gain binoculars, you can behold all that it is losing and letting go: the people you loved, the house that was ?home?, the places you visited and all the things you tasted. Through the other lens, you can see strangers that might be kind, houses that might become home, famous places you?ve always wanted to see, and delicious food that you cannot yet name. One half of the binoculars helps you cope with the reality of loss, while the other helps you spot the potential gains.

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