Monday, 13 May 2013

How to be a mate when your mate is leaving

Twenty and thirtysomethings like to emigrate. This year alone four friends of mine have upped sticks and left Aotearoa for colder if more prosperous shores. Four and a half years ago I decided the UK was a grey, grumpy, miserable little island and decided to up sticks to Auckland and never looked back. As a result I like to think I know a bit about leaving all you hold dear and reinventing yourself in pastures new, and present for your consideration some tips on how to be a good mate when your mate is abandoning you for the bright lights of the big hemisphere.
I typed "Departure" into google images. Er......

  • Make time. They'll be busy. There's a million things that need sold, moved, filled out and signed in the weeks before they leave, and tensions run high. Be the one to make time. Check in with them, ask how it's going, offer to help. Meet for a quick coffee. There's something quite depressing about your closest mates treating you like you've already left when you still have to plan the leaving do. 
  • Go to the leaving do, and don't be a dick. It's their leaving do. Go to it. Unless you really have something important on (or they're just not that good a mate), at least pop in for a bit. But remember that heaps of other people will be doing the same, and they'll all want to say goodbye too. Don't follow them around the whole night, and if you feel the urge to clutch them weeping about how awful it'll be without them it might be time to get a cab home
  • Don't smother them. Emigrating is a full-on business. They'll be busy as hell. Your mate will be up to their eyeballs and trying to see as many of their friends and family as they can. Check in, ask when they're free, be flexible around them but don't try and do the emigrating for them. 
  • Whatever they're feeling is how they should be feeling. It's a big deal, leaving. Excitement at all the awesome shopping/hiking/walrus polishing they have there, terror at leaving everything they know behind, panic at all the goddamn forms, frustration that they're not gone yet, worry that they're going too soon. Often all at once. If you manage to catch up with them for a coffee/moving the coffee table to auntie Caroline's, let them talk it out. They might be full of excitement and waxing lyrical about the hamster racing festival held in their new town, the next crying over how they'll miss kumara. Be patient with the mood swinginess.
  • Try not to make them feel worse. Asking lots of questions about what they'll miss most, or if they're worried about never seeing their grandad again? Don't be that person.
  • Check in when they leave. Send them the update about their local cafe getting a facelift. Ask about how it's going. Let them know they still exist in your universe! Just don't expect them to reply immediately and at length, what with all that exciting new stuff they're doing. Without you.
  • Move on. I found once I left that the most random people from the motherland were getting in touch a lot and talking about our acquaintanceship like we'd been in the trenches together. They'd make constant references to visiting despite never making the effort to catch up when I lived down the road. It's nice to let your friend know they're missed but don't give the idea that you've followed them and are hiding under the house. That behaviour only works in '80s romcoms before restraining orders were a thing.

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