I’ve left a lot of things behind in my life—family and loved ones, friends, places, schools, work environments. Having travelled and lived overseas; having changed schools every two to three years during my twenty years as a secondary teacher, I’ve left behind communities, students, houses, requirements of daily living and more. I have had only two stretches of living continuously for 18 to 20 years or so in one home, the first in Clayton between ages around 4 and 22, the second (and current) stretch in Benalla from October 1998 to now.
I’ve left kindergarten and primary schools and friends in Clayton behind; high schools in Malvern and Oakleigh behind; Monash and Melbourne Universities courses, libraries and friends behind.
I’ve left close relatives behind. While travelling overseas for a year in 1976, perhaps never to return, I left my beloved grandmother behind . For many years I had occasional, quite disturbing nightmares in which she is still living in her house and no one is looking after her.
I left folders and texts from my studies at university and first six years of teaching in boxes in my grandmother’s bungalow. Sadly, my loved grandmother passed away while I was away. With little understanding of the actual and ascribed meaning of these resources, well meaning friends of my mother burnt them in the incinerator behind the bungalow when helping her to prepare Nanna’s house for auction. I returned home to find only one folder as evidence of 10 years study and work. A folder containing Economics 101 lecture notes from 1966, continues to have a special place in my shed! Since then I’ve found it difficult to throw anything out and still face physical and psychological challenges in my continuing quest to reduce teaching resource based clutter in my shed and study.
I’ve worked in many, many places over time – a men’s clothing store in Clayton; London Stores in Bourke Street; Heywood, Yarram, MacRob, Elwood, La Casa Inglesa (Madrid), Daylesford, Kamloops (in Canada) Cheltenham, and Flemington High Schools. I’ve been seconded to the Education Department’s Research section and to teach in Education Faculties at Melbourne University and the Melbourne Institute of Education. I’ve worked at Employment in the Community for Young People, Ballarat and Wangaratta Community Health Centres, Centrelink…..and even had a brief stint as a consultant with an ABN number working on a range of community projects in the North East Victoria.
I’ve left behind friends I met when making a midlife career change to study Social Work at Melbourne University in 1992 and colleagues and clients met in social work jobs in Ballarat and Wangaratta involving drug and alcohol work and counselling in community health centres drug work and a very special project with Year 10 students at Myrtleford Secondary College. And then, my final decade or so at GOTAFE, teaching at Wangaratta, Benalla and occasionally the Shepparton campus. Living in Benalla I often come across students in the community – not having moved on, I haven’t completely left them behind.
Daylesford is a place I found difficult to leave behind. I’m still drawn to go back to this now tourist town where I taught after returning from overseas in 1977, buying a little miner’s cottage on Wombat Hill in 1977, selling it to come to Benalla in 1998. I was reminded of the friends and community I left behind when visiting an exhibition at the Daylesford Museum recently, with exhibits of community banner projects and albums of photos relating to projects I was involved with in the Daylesford Arts Cooperative which formed at the time. Other places I left behind, and in some ways part of me, behind, are Madrid in Spain and British Columbia in Canada.
Occasionally it’s been positive, if stressful and traumatic traumatic, to leave work behind. Toxic work environments, for example! And it was quite a feat engaging in what on the surface was satisfactory succession planning and the subsequent transition from paid work to the final leaving of paid work, retirement.
Sometimes, the leaving behind of relationships has been traumatic, disappointing and extremely sad. It’s still difficult to talk about the relationships, and there’s no time here, to explore this further...
It was sad to leave behind treasured dogs, ‘Jose’ my black poodle, when I left Australia to teach for a year in Canada at the end of 1980, and ‘Raz’ my friendly and affectionate whippet. I left Raz after he’d passed away in the vets building on the Samaria Road. It seemed as if it was the time for him to go, but I still feel troubled about my decision.
It’s sadder now to leave people behind, as in many cases I won’t be able to visit them again, and they often haven’t been able to travel for some years. My loved Auntie Joyce, 100 yrs old in a nursing home in Sydney; my 90 year old half sister who lives at Tweed Heads; perhaps my older brother who lives in Brisbane.
I’ve been left behind too – the saddest being beloved family members who have passed on, particularly my mother Paula, who died a few years ago in Benalla at age 101. I would still love to pick up the phone and be able to chat to her about ‘this and that’. My father left me behind, passing away suddenly when I was fifteen, a leaving behind that was to prove traumatic for many reasons, both then and over time, and from which I have had to pick up the broken pieces and move on.
Being left behind is a reality at U3A, where I miss class mates such as Jim Casey, who left us behind last year, and his wife Jan. Funerals, memorial services and wakes are experienced more often in the third age, with the services and follow up hospitality providing an important chance to share memories with others who also care about the person who has left.
It seems my life has been about leaving things behind. People appear to think I’d find it hard to leave people behind. I’m actually quite good at it, possibly hardened to it, because I’ve done it so often. I wonder if I’m in fact addicted to leaving things behind as I do start to get a big ‘twitchy’ every three years or so!
I’ve left fertility and now it seems robust physical health behind. Perhaps my brain is also working on reducing it’s usually robust functioning ‘in the background’, possibly becoming clearer to others in the fullness of time. Without intending to, I’ve recognised with great sadness that I’ve left ever living with other people who are dear to me behind.
Perhaps part of life is about leaving things behind – and yet there doesn’t appear to be a course which one can complete about this.
it seems at the moment I’m thinking a lot about and beginning to prepare myself for the Big Leaving of Things Behind, that is, the one where I actually fall of the perch and leave everyone and everything behind. However I don’t want to leave too much behind for people to sort out, so must get back into my study and start sorting! I’m not alone here – the question of how not to leave ‘so much stuff’ behind occupies the minds of many of my friends.
The leaving of things behind is, it seems, a hugely philosophical question related to the meaning of life….
I must get on to Alain de Boton about it!
January 2018, Revised 9 September, 2018