The year scuttles quickly to its close, scooping with it unintended victims that lie unknowingly in its path. I stand on the precipice of a new year, teetering uncertainly, vertiginous as I glare at the depth of the chasm before me. Just a trusting leap away, new ventures await, new pathways to be trod, new friendships to be made. Yet, I am loath to fold away the old-new friendships of two years, to origami them into an ideal as I wave farewell to those on their own journeys to different climes. Two families who played a pivotal role in our welcome, in establishing a community, stand ready to depart for the next step of their expat journey. Two women I have come to call sisters, will too soon be restarting lives a world away. I am bereft for myself, while simultaneously rejoicing for them.
They move back to the familiar, to family and home, to places and spaces that the body inhabits without conscious thought, to habit. There is, perhaps, a microscopic shard of envy lodged in the pit of my stomach as I think of their move. Not in my heart. No, not that. My heart, fickle and wandering, lusts for adventure, for learning, for discovering, for difference. My heart would be dissatisfied with a return to the old. But there is somewhere nebulous in me that yearns for a moment of familiar, for the thoughtless ease of repetitive acts.
And still. I tussle with my melancholy at the gradual release of these two sister-friends, these book-lovers, these food-enthusers, these adventure-partners. My heart aches for their own upcoming grit-your-teeth-and-forward-into-the-fray journeys as they slot back into friendships suspended, lives on hold. I travel with them in thought as they unpack their lives, store away their experiences, dust off their old connections in their familiar-unfamiliar houses. My stomach knots with theirs as they wave off children to yet another school, yet another education system, yet another group of friendships waiting to be made. I see the threads that connect us thickening with life now before they leave. The unconscious strengthening of those bindings happens before every move in an expat life. It is human, I suppose, to shore up those banks, make secure our tenuous tethers to each other before the inevitable fraying that occurs with distance, and time, and lives lived apart.
A bitter taste wells in my mouth now at the thought of the inescapability of this end. And yet. There is promise on the horizon too. A new friend made through internet connections has taken shape and form over Christmas. Her spectral existence has solidified into a generous new friend. A new adventure, a getting-to-know awaits just an arms-reach away.
It’s time to box up my melancholy, place it carefully in a dark corner of the attic, and open the windows to the potential in a new year.
I appreciate your thoughts, and I share many of them. It’s like there is a pull in two different directions- the stability of long-term relationships, being rooted in a place; vs. the desire to experience new things. It seems that they can’t really be meshed- you have to pick one or the other. I *think* I know which way my own heart is leading (the comfort of the familiar), but I’m not entirely sure. Anyway, just wanted to send you some comforting vibes- I can relate as I spend yet another holiday far away from people (besides my immediate family) that really know me.
Thanks so much, Miriam! Those momenta of flux and change can be so hard, can’t they? But the world is always in a state of change. How one deals with it, is key. I hope there were pockets of jou in your holiday season.
I relate with much of this. The wanting the comfort of old moments, yet knowing they won’t satisfy. I wish you much luck with this next phase of life–and adventure.
I’m so pleased you relate to this. It’s a very human reaction, no? Being caught between adventure and comfort. Thanks so much for your beautiful wish!
“God made the world round, so we would never see too far down the road.” It’s one of my favorite quotes and what often helps me get through transitions and changes. I hope the road in front of you is filled with good things! Lovely writing as always.
Oh Bill, that’s a wonderful quote, and such a positive way of looking at life! If I know too much about what’s ahead, I worry too much about it. Thank you so much for your wish and your compliments!
Living in a large city, I relate to your melancholy. People moving into and out of my life constantly. I try to remember that they will be forever tied to my experience here.
Yes! All those interactions shape who we are, don’t they? You’re so right.
I could not leave a comment on this when you originally posted because all I could think about was my best friend moving out of the States to Qatar back in October. She didn’t live in the same state, but she was in the same time zone and was only a phone call away until her move. I so felt your sense of loss that I couldn’t type without crying.
I can write all this now because she is back. I’m sad that the job she took was not what she had hoped for, but I’m selfishly glad to have her back and looking forward to her visit in a few weeks.
I admire your willingness to find new friends and create new bonds in a way that does not diminish the connections that your past connections. I’m so unbrave about making new friends, that I was bereft when I lost an old one for a short time.
Oh Cyn, I know that feeling well, that hollowness and uncertainty. How wonderful that your friend is back so soon (though I’m sorry for the reasons for her return).
You’re so right, learning to let go of friends is so hard, so heartbreaking, but also so rewarding in many ways. It has taught me so much about myself, made room for new friendships to grow, and has allowed those friendships to grow in different ways.
Funnily enough, my dear friend who left and I email lengthy letters, or short notes, or photographs to each other probably every other day now. She has become another integral tether to a home I’ve left behind.