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You are also allowed to leave

I’m not very good at leaving. I think about it too much, I become (more) awkward (than usual), I stay because of the others in the room.

Also I suck at saying goodbye. To help me out today, I googled “goodbye art” and was rewarded with two love stories with falling leaves on their covers, a book of self- assistance promising me tools to defeat my inner demon and become a butterfly, a funeral planner in the Netherlands with beautiful greenery, goodbye grace from a Catholic fellowship and other things I remembered for don’t get distracted. To be fair, it was a very generalized search. I didn’t go back and search “how to say goodbye in your ODT column when you’ve been writing this column for eight years and feel conflicted about the things you want to say” because. Good. OK, I did. But that didn’t help.

A while ago, I watched an online version of a meeting in the Hawea Flat room, run by Counterspin Media. It was a lot. Would you stay in the room if the person on the microphone said “the problem with this country is that women don’t stay home to take care of their children”? Would you stay in the room while the person on the mic smiled and said, of a woman, “the female dog wouldn’t die?”. Would you stay in the room while the person on the microphone spoke in a calm, friendly voice about “Maori land grabbers”? Would you stay in the room during the part about the deep state translation machine that will finally reveal the hidden messages behind what Helen Clark really, really says in her speeches? The camera was on the audience and the local speakers too, and one of my thoughts was why are they staying? Oh, but I also stayed until the credits.

I can tell myself that I am staying here because my point of view is different and because it is important/good/polite to consider the thoughts of others and because it is a privilege (to be taken with responsibility) to be near the microphone. Plus, I’m sharing this particular mic with people with racism, misogyny, and transphobia (and this is just a roundup of teahouses and online browsing over the past two weeks) are not controlled. Life is not an open mic night. Which is honestly just as well. But one thing I love about open mic parties is when someone stands up at the start and says something like, “OK, have fun and don’t be racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, don’t ‘hit’, don’t be stupid”.

Being myself sometimes (and mostly, I like to think, accidentally) an asshole, I learned a lot about writing and a lot about thinking by being allowed to think in this space. Another thing I absolutely loved is when people contact me about something I’ve written and what it means to them. (Oh wait, mostly. I love it when I learn something from the exchange. And/or feel seen and/or helpful. I’m not that big of a fan of posts advocating self-harm or offering help for inflict it.) I’m so glad I had the opportunity to share stuff and things from other people and other places.

Oh. I become incoherent again because it is time to leave. As Carter the Unstoppable Sex Machine sang, “So nothing lasts forever, but nothing ever was. It’s big but it’s not smart and it’s really not that big”. I’m not sure exactly what this means, but the nuns recommended sharing a quote to mark the occasion. Goodbye.