Safe Harbor

I once found myself atop one of the tallest buildings in Dumaguete City. It was nighttime, and the wind was cold, but bearably so. I was looking out beyond the Rizal Boulevard as tiny ships dotted the wide expanse of sea. The horizon blended into the darkness of the open water, creating a big black blanket while the boats mimicked stars in the sky. It was beautiful enough as it was, but the symbolism it represented made it unforgettable.

Leaving and being left are very natural events in a person’s life. To embark in a great adventure, one must put behind all that he or she knows and surrender to the workings of fate. It can be a very daunting thing to do, but it could also be very liberating. Taking on the unknown and being exposed to all sorts of people and circumstances can increase a person’s maturity and make him or her more sensitive to the human experience. There will always be moments where one misses “used-to-be’s” and familiar faces. This feeling intensifies in moments where one takes a wrong turn. Bumps like these will always be on the road, but all of them eventually lead to the path of self-discovery.

In other journeys, leaving can be a call of duty. Others must set sail in dark blue waters in the name of leadership, service, and greater knowledge. Diplomats, doctors, and scholars do it all the time. However, having a noble cause doesn’t make it any easier for them. They long for their families. They long for easier times. Demands at work become unbearable. Nonetheless, they do what they can all for a higher purpose.

They say leaving can be one of the cruelest things a person can do to another. For anyone who has been left behind, feelings of anxiety, desperation, and hopelessness can be intolerable at times. It’s hard being away from a friend who has been with you for most of your life all in order to chase a dream. It’s even twice as hard to see him or her go when you have just accomplished so much together. But on the other hand, having a good relationship also means being supportive of each other, even if it means not seeing that person for a long while.

Despite the detachment from a kindred spirit, having some physical distance has its silver linings. For the person left behind, there is an opportunity to explore new things and meet new friends. It might also make one value the good things around which would otherwise be ignored. More than seeing what’s out there, it also makes us look inside and focus on personal goals.

We all have roles to play. Some act as onlookers who wonder when they would come back. They worry when they don’t see a flicker of light from the ship they have been steadily watching. Others act as ships who sail out into mysterious seas. Raging waves sometimes batter the ships in storms, but they also see better days in good weather. Like boats filled with treasures, these people have pasalubongs with them from the many places they’ve gone to. These gifts may not be physical items and can come in the form of something more valuable such as values and lessons which they impart with others. And just like ships that travel for months at a time and return to the safe harbor, these travelers will always go back to where their hearts truly belong: home.

All That Jazz
Michiko Bito-on

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