Good morning and goodbye

As I sat down to write what would be my 99th column in Muscat Daily, and also my last, the sudden storm outside cheered me up inexplicably. We went out to watch the lightning illuminate the sky to the accompanying low growl of distant thunder, the leaves rustling faster and faster - and somehow, adventure suddenly seemed a whole lot closer.

Letting go is never easy - like our oldest, tattered T-shirt, which is always the softest and most comfortable thing in our wardrobe, we are reluctant to throw away the known. And even when you take that step, memories make it hard not to look back. I think though, it is quite alright to do that.

I fell in love with these lines by a Washington Post  columnist who wrote: “It [letting go] means leaving what’s over without denying its validity or its past importance in our lives.” I can’t forget the people I shared so much with, my co-workers, my readers, the lessons I learnt along the way, the laughter, the tears, the scoops, the gaffes: All of it is what made 17 years go by without me really noticing.

The whole plan (suggested by two of my long-time colleagues) was to start writing a column when we started Muscat Daily  in 2009. I did two, but somehow 12-hour days are not conducive to creative writing and I chickened out. I am not sure anyone even noticed them. And then it all began again in 2016 and has continued since, albeit with a few summer and Ramadan breaks.

There have been so many times that I’ve sat in front of my screen at work, or my trusty iPad at home, procrastinating, as usual, setting the font type, the size, the space between lines...anything to put off the inevitable question. “What do I write about?” Rare are those occasions when I sit down totally ready with what I have to say and I am done in a couple of hours. Trust me, having a deadline hanging on your head for something creative is never fun, and then you begin to question why you ever started down this road, and if anyone even cares about what you write and so on. The usual small stuff we worry about.

Then all it needs is one reader to write in with some kind words (or even not kind) and all the self-doubt, anxiety, deadline resentment and general petulance vanishes. One of the first editors I worked with told me that the reason we write, the reason we exist, is because someone reads us.

And there is nothing that I loved more than checking my mail and finding a message from an unknown reader. My favourite reader will always remain one of the most elegant and interesting 80-plus women I’ve ever met, who first mailed me via her son.

The minute I got the mail I knew I had to go see her. Let me clarify that I’m not randomly given to visiting strangers just because they wrote to me, so please don’t worry I’ll show up at your doorstep. Sneh Sunder had the most wonderful tales to tell going all the way back to the India-Pakistan partition and I’ll always treasure the couple of hours I spent with her.

There are so many others I’d like to mention but I don’t have the space to do so. All I can say is that each time someone mailed, messaged, sent me a card or called – it made me appreciate the opportunity that this column offered me to connect with people that I may never have otherwise got to know or meet.

Of course, things will be different now and I’ve no doubt I’ll miss the nagging voice in my head reminding me to get moving on my column. What I’ll definitely not miss is a recurring nightmare I’ve had where I open Muscat Daily  in the morning and see page 2 and 3 completely blank because we forgot to do them!

While clearing my two and a half drawers at work, I found so many little bits of paper with half-formed thoughts scribbled on them. And envelopes. For some reason, my ideas and envelopes have an affinity for each other. On the most moth-eaten envelope of them all, I found an idea I must have had ten years ago for a book no less. I have gathered them all lovingly and hope it’s not going to be another ten years before I do something with them.

I’ve heard that there comes a time when you need to write your own story – and for me, that time is here. So thank you for reading and for being with me on this journey. Maybe someday, somewhere, we will meet again. Until then, good luck and goodbye.

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