Having friends is important to anyone, but it’s especially important when you’re an expat. The social circles and family customs that you once took for granted are thousands of miles across an ocean and you find these things, those relationships that you had once used to define yourself, completely stripped away. And it.is.hard. I have many friends who are dear to me, but I have very few friends who know me deeply. I’m talking the friends who know the silly, gritty, intensely honest side of you and who love you totally in spite of yourself.
It was my 3rd year living in the UK when I moved to the Southwest. After a relatively uneventful first two years in England, all of the sudden I found that I was lonely, tearful, and for the first time in a long time, very unsure of myself. This move had me feeling isolated and I found myself longing to feel known, to be accepted, to have deep friendships.
They came into our lives in Febraury of 2008. We had just married. They married a week after us. He was the most American Brit I had ever met. She was facing some of the same struggles and issues as me, having just moved to a new part of the country. And the friendship just was.
But a couple of months ago, our best friends moved away. I considered writing a post about it as my mind attempted to process what life would be like without them in it so regularly, but the day came and we decided not to say goodbye.
We had arranged to come down to their new place in 9 days and it felt odd to gear up for this emotional farewell only to see each other so soon after. We popped in on their final night in the cottage, the cottage with walls that held so many significant memories for us, and we helped cleaned, hugged and said, “We’ll see you in a week.” And it felt easy. It felt okay.
They are not across the world. They are not even on the opposite side of the country. They are just over two hours away, but it felt like a significant change from the lives we had built – Thanksgivings and Christmases together, sadnesses and joys, little getaways, pregnancies and the birth of our children. We had lived it all right beside one another for years and now there would be this foreign physical distance between us.
A little over a week passed and we made the two hour drive to their new home, in their new neighbourhood, in their new town. We slept in their new lounge with unpacked boxes staring at us from corners of their new rooms with their unwelcome reminders us of why we were really there. We stayed up late putting the world to rights, something we had done so many nights before. And then the weekend ended and we said goodbye. It felt more final this time as we drove back to our side of the country, but a rushed goodbye meant that we couldn’t spend our time feeling sad. I questioned whether I needed to make a big deal of it. Perhaps, this was just how life was and I needed to accept it as being okay.
I’ve come to the conclusion that sometimes you need to face the sadness because if you don’t, it will come to find you. And it has come to find us.
This weekend, after two months of not seeing one another, they came in for Carnival. It was so normal to see them. It was so good to hug their babies and to be with them, but the whole time, we both felt so sad in the midst of our happiness. Being together reminded us of how different things were and how much we were missing out on in the months between. It showed us how much we really desperately miss each other. I finally let in the sadness of saying goodbye to them. It is not forever. It is two hours. But it is still hard….and that is okay.