Thursday, March 11, 2010

This one goes out to the ones I left behind

There are three invites on our mantelpiece right now. One's to a friend's book launch here in Dublin. One is to brunch in honour of lovely Kim, who's pregnant...and in San Francisco. The third is to the wedding of one of my dearest college friends, in Manchester (England, not NH).

The mantelpiece sums up the thing I hate most about overseas living. Sure, I don't exactly miss the residual homesickness that kept me company the whole time we were in Seattle, and I think I'll probably be able to cope without Dublin's insane cost of living; but making lifelong friends who are all scattered is a total bitch.

I've never really believed in going overseas and living as an expat, all Pictionary leagues* and Guy Fawkes nights. Apart from anything else, the latter'd get you shot in Ireland, and rightly so. This probably stems back to my first two year-long stints abroad, in Austria and Germany. In those instances, I was there for the explicit purpose of learning the language and immersing in the respective cultures of the country, so that later I could pass an exam.

Apparently, being a total nerd, the fear of failing the exam persists, so I've always thought that if you're living in a foreign country, the only option is to 'go native'. Not least when there's no foreign language to act as a barrier.

And we've been really lucky. We've made some incredible friends in both the US and Ireland; friends who are still in the fabric of our lives even though we're not hanging out regularly any more. These are people we've spent Christmas with; friends (in both countries) who got me through endless months of sleep deprivation and terror-of-the-tiny-newborn; friends who've drunk cocktails with us in Hawaii; friends who've sung 'Fairytale of New York' with me at the tops of their voices and bottom of their glasses.

I'm not at the stage yet of missing my Irish friends because, with two-ish weeks to go, it's all about trying to see as much of them as possible in the hopes that, like perfume, the more intense the experience the longer it'll linger. And because Ireland is so much closer to England than Seattle is, it'll be easier to get back, for people to come over. But, like a sheep in dipping season, I can see it's coming. And I'm not looking forward to it one little bit.

I don't think there's an easy answer to this. Don't go abroad in the first place? Well, fine, but then we wouldn't have met the people or had the experiences. Go abroad but keep it light, don't get attached? Maybe possible if you're going for such a short length of time that it's almost an extended holiday; but work somewhere, have kids, and you're going to form attachments. I don't have the answer yet, except to try my hardest to make it to as many events as possible, something that's growing easier as the twinkles get bigger. And to put effort into those friendships, because they matter, dammit.

And to be grateful, of course, that I even have this problem. Friends are magnificent, even if they don't all live in the same street any more.

*A friend of mine who spent a year in Caracas said that this was the height of expat entertainment. I can't even sodding draw; I'd have been screwed.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

A simple prop / To occupy your time?

I've been thinking rather similar thoughts, but not as eloquently. Will miss you when you move.