Today, I Leave Edinburgh

by Gurpreet Sihat

Today, I leave Edinburgh.

You would think that this ‘sayonara’ would be easy for me considering I’ve spent at least a month here every year since 2005, but this year has been different. Scotland has never felt more like a home away from home than right now.

It used to be a place I came to recharge my batteries. Somewhere I would escape to when things were getting a little too much in England. It was a sliver of time to find a new equilibrium, to treat myself, to relax with my sister. When I joined the Edinburgh Film Festival team four years ago, on top of everything else it became a month of good movies, good conversations and good food (and free drinks! WooHoo!).

This year I decided to introduce a friend, Krishna, to my little slice of Scottish heaven. We’ve known each other since we learned to talk, walk and read, and when she said she’d love to visit Edinburgh, I booked her a ticket to join me without hesitation. The small, simple act opened a new chapter in my Scottish life.

We walked. A lot. We saw the sunset over the city from Carlton Hill, we climbed Arthur’s Seat (a huge feat for me with my breathing problem and a very sore knee), we meandered up and down the Royal Mile and visited the Botanical Gardens and Inverleith Park. We ate Nepalese food, Italian food and good ol’ chips. We drank and talk and laughed. And we lounged around in our pyjamas, flicking through our newsfeeds and watching random Zac Efron movies that none of us really paid attention to.

Somehow, between everything, she had time to teach me three very important lessons: 1) that having limitations are okay and nothing to be ashamed of; 2) that friendship and love do not have to be physically with you 24/7 for it to exist; and 3) that letting go means cutting ties and not covering them up. By the end of her visit, I was no longer standing still for long periods of time. I was taking small, slow steps forward, pausing for a brief moment to breath, be grateful and appreciate the beauty that surrounded me.

The weeks that followed Krishna leaving Scotland were far from normal for me. I began to leave the flat more and more each day. I took the long way back from the shops so I could take in the scenery. I spent any morning I was free in Starbucks working instead of in front of the TV. I filled my schedule with coffee dates with contacts, meetings with clients and drinks with friends. I explored new parts of Edinburgh outside the city centre and the suburb I was living in. I embraced the communities I was becoming part of and stopped to talk to people for a change. And all this while working at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, battling yet another chest infection and spending time with my family.

Together, Scotland and Krishna have not just reset my equilibrium this year but helped me find a new one. They’ve reminded me that it’s not just okay to evolve, it’s necessary. That letting go of the past helps create a brighter future, but that it needs to be taken at your own pace and no one else’s.

So, it is with a heavy heart that I say ‘sayonara’ to Edinburgh this year. I look forward to seeing what lessons you teach me next year. At least my Krishna’s waiting in London for me!

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