I came across this a article from Washington Post on “The expat life is full of adventures – and loneliness“. Not only did the title catch my attention, no the article touched me on many levels. It is such a heartfelt piece, I feel for the writer and her emotions.
I am an expat, too, have been for 12+ years in various countries by now. And while I may understand and see her struggles, especially in the situation she finds herself in, I have a different outlook to some of her points. I picked three points out of her article that moved me the most.
- “There is a line you are not supposed to cross.”
I believe that not every friendship is meant to go deep. Over the years I recognised that some friendships are meant to be situational, kind of “survival” friendships for that period. They are not worth any less, by no means, they just simply may not go that deep or go on for long after. Nevertheless, are they super important and vital to make your new place your home, to feel connected! We simply cannot have deep friendships with everybody we cross paths with. That would not be the case if we stay in one place only, either. Friendships differ and that is ok! But hopefully you find at least one person where you feel you can “cross” the line. And perhaps the person opposite is just waiting for somebody to cross the line, to be able to open up, too. Don`t dismiss that thought, keep it close to you!
By holding back and thinking that there is “a line we are not supposed to cross” we may actually miss out on some special connections! At times I feel myself doing that, holding myself back, not opening up. And I do indeed feel I that missed out on making some deeper friendships in the past. Something I regret.
And if indeed you feel that you cannot cross the line but you feel good by having the person around you, then that is ok, too. Not every friendship will and has to go deep. Some friendships and connections are meant for the moments when we “go to cafes together and set up afternoon playdates.” Do not dismiss them, they are vital, too, especially when you are an expat and move around often, or live in a place with high turn over!
2. “[…] desperately turning small moments from the past into meaningful ones.”
This part really got to and saddened me as she goes on with “nobody here can give him the eulogy he deserves.” Again I get where she is coming from but do not disregard the small moments! It is not always about the amount of time we spend together with somebody!
I often find the small moments the most meaningful ones. More often than not it was a small encounter, gesture, chat, coffee talk that uplifted and inspired me the most. Do not dismiss the small moments as they can be the most powerful ones! And if you can touch a person with small moments it may actually mean the world to him/her!
3. “Although my life is filled with wonderful, colourful people, they are temporary people.”
We cannot always plan to meet THE ONE with every move, and it may take time to find that person. But you never know from the beginning, so never see a person as temporary only. I found some of my best friends years ago, we crossed paths, shared meaningful, wonderful and tough moments, and even with thousands of kilometres apart over several years now we still remain close and they know more then anybody around me. And with others I may not be close regularly but I know they are there if there is ever any need!
I may add to that that I did have some wonderful and deep meaningful friendships at times and thought they would go beyond but then they did not. There is no real reason for that only perhaps that life got in between. But I do not dismiss what we had, it was wonderful and I am absolutely sure that if we should ever meet again we would go on where we left off. But what I am saying is you never know so please do not view friendships as temporary, they do not have to be! And that “temporary” thought will automatically make you hold back. I have been there, done it and as mentioned before I think I missed out.
After sharing the Washington Post article on my Facebook page a friend wrote back “There are both deep friendships and deep loneliness” (in the expat life) and I may add to that “a lot of in-betweens”. But I noticed as well that you will rarely meet anybody who will turn you down if you are in need, or if you “cross the line.” But this is two sided. Too often we want to appear strong, optimistic, energetic. We do not want to let others see the other side of us; we do not want to appear vulnerable, especially when we are new somewhere, when we are out there making new friendships! We seldom let our guards down, thinking we cannot “cross the line”. But if and when we do that, incredible friendships can blossom, not only temporary but sometimes for life!
Dear all out there, dare to cross the line, ask for help, support if and when you feel you need it, do not hold back! Asking for support does not make you weak, it makes you stronger!