Farewells teach us all to live for the moment

Farewells teach us all to live for the moment

When we bid farewell to something, it marks the end of a relationship. Saying it gives us a sense of ending. Saying goodbye reminds us of how vulnerable and uncertain our life is.

While I cannot avoid attending funerals as it is social etiquette to pay respects to those who have passed away, as well as giving support to family members, I often avoid farewell parties -- either sending off my friends when they go abroad for their education or attending office farewell parties.

It's not that I never attend farewell parties, as no one can avoid them all. I have gone a few times and found the experience surprising. At almost every party -- like the one I attended recently, people were jolly and chatty, laughingly recounting the old days -- the first time they met, and their good and bad experiences in the past, not the present.

Having been witness to Covid-19 and the global recession, I'm working harder. But that does not mean I've not felt a sense of ending or never bidding farewell.

Three events have left indelible marks on me. When they happened, they were challenging and painful, but with the benefit of hindsight, they have taught me an important lesson -- of making the best of the present moment because nothing stays with us forever. All good -- and bad things -- always come to an end.

I learned this the first time when my parents sent me to boarding school. Maybe they did not know which one would be the best, but I ended up moving to a new school every three years. Looking back, I experienced too many disruptions at an early age. I feel like I did not grow up in a stable home.

I learned it the second time when my grandfather passed away. Back then, I was waiting for my exam admission results. After they were announced, I had planned to drop by and surprise him. But his unexpected passing dealt me a blow. He was one of the very few people who made me feel at home.

The third time was when I left the teaching profession to be a journalist. Prior to working here, I left a TV channel because I wanted to focus on long-form journalism. Unlike the two cases mentioned above, this kind of farewell requires introspection and planning.

Life is full of unpredictability and no matter how prepared we are, we can always be caught off guard. Some people who want to quit may find the idea of layoffs tolerable, but others want to stay on for different reasons. Even those who survive are not spared the impact of layoffs since they have to work harder.

In a nutshell, we are in the same boat, big or small, traditional or cutting-edge IT companies or even up-and-coming digital start-ups. Shopee recently laid off employees in Southeast Asia, including Thailand. After a decline in subscribers for the first time, the household streaming giant Netflix axed staff due to slower revenue growth. Not to mention traditional media that have faced digital disruption for decades.

And it has been a difficult few years for the media in trying to stay afloat in a digitally disruptive industry. News outlets worldwide have been in unknown territory trying to explore new digital platforms, finding a balance between winning clicks without compromising their journalistic ethics. But we can always count on the Law of Darwinism. Those who cannot adapt face extinction.

"Why don't you do something else?" a friend once asked me. Her point was valid. Ideally, people should work in sunrise industries. But the global economic downturn and war have left almost every industry in sunset mode. I have seen more businesses downsize than companies with decent prospects rising up. Yet, I think people should do what they love and I still love what I do -- writing.

Perhaps, I know deep down inside me that things come and go. I am not painting a rosy picture of hardship.

In the age of disruption, unadaptable established institutions or new digital businesses -- even digital currency investments and NFTs -- can collapse. But don't forget that this painful process will eventually pave the way for new things, if the people involved learn from their mistakes.

For those who manage to stay in the media business, they should uphold professional standards, not because it will lessen the chances of unemployment, but because they will remain with you and have a positive impact on the younger generation to come.

Use whatever resources you have to pass on good things to our society. When all is said and done, we can rest easy in knowing we have made the world a better place.

Thana Boonlert

Bangkok Post columnist

Thana Boonlert is a writer for the Life section and a Bangkok Post columnist.

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