I've come to recognize over the last two years that ex-pat life like a revolving door. People are constantly rotating in and out of my life and sometimes with such a frenzy that you get dizzy. That's how I feel this week. When I look to the future and how much time I plan to spend in Barcelona, I look back on the relationships and connections I have made here in the last 2 years.
Two years ago I moved here with absolute apprehension about how I would go about building relationships and honestly, did I even want any? That's not meant to sound egotistical like I had too many friends and why would I want more, but over the course of a lifetime, we all have our core group of friends. Those are the people who have made it thru over the years, through the good, the bad and the ugly. So why would I want to start from scratch again when those I had at home were really all that I needed... right? I didn't want to invest my time or my heart into new relationships because in the end, I knew we were all moving on, so why cause myself undue heartache?
How wrong could I be? In that time, I've realized that I not only need friends here but I want them. And as I tell Aidan, it's ok to have friends on both sides of the pond, in fact, it's healthy. And so the guilt that I've had about expanding beyond my US friends has also dissipated. I need connections here as well as home - they are the key to my survival both here and at home, as well as often, my sanity.
Making connections is beyond important but my new challenge is how to handle the loss of these new friends as they move on to new destinations. I know that eventually, someday, this person moving on will be me and someone else will be going thru this, but for the time being I'm going with the woe is me philosophy and contemplating how all of these people leaving has affected my life, not theirs. Selfish sure, but hey, it's my blog...
In last two years I've been really lucky, very few of what I would call close (as in, I'd like to stay in touch beyond our time in Barcelona) friends have left, but now I feel like the floodgates have opened and suddenly I'm at a loss as to how to go on from here. And questioning do I even want to stay longer than we anticipated if I can't do it without them?
My two closest friends in Barcelona are leaving this year - one that I knew and one that is unexpected. I'm thrilled for them both, truly I am. They are about to embark on the new adventure of repatriotizing back to the US which I have no doubt, will challenge them in all new ways, ways that I don't really envy and in all honesty, scare the shit out of me. It's one of the reasons that I contemplate staying longer than our next year and a half. Funny how far I've come right?
And while I don't know how I will survive without these two in my daily life, they will still be in my life because that's just how it works with true friends which is what they've become over time. We've shared some amazing experiences living abroad and we've seen each other at our best and most definitely at our worst. So how do I "replace" them? I don't think I can and that's what now scares me. I have other wonderful friends here as well, don't get me wrong, but to have two of my closest leaving with in a 6 month period is just devastating when your closest circle of friends consists of about 7 people.
I can absolutely build more relationships but these happened so organically and that was the best part of them - they just happened and they worked and not only did they work, but worked beautifully. And to replace them doesn't feel right.
However, without realizing it, in a way I've begun to do just that. Not replace them, but add on to the core group that I've started here for myself. New people that have just moved or are in the process of
moving here, local friends (finally!) who I hope are not going anywhere, and trying to develop my other connections to a new level of friendship that maybe I wasn't as motivated to develop before but now have more reason to do so.
So the moral of the story? I'm not 100% sure there is one. But I can tell you this. Two years ago I was wrong - making connections when you live abroad is absolutely essential. But be prepared to have your heart broken over and over again. Be ready to cry at countless goodbye parties. Know that there will be a lot of "this is the last time we'll do xyz" before you leave moments. But also know that you are in a unique situation that the majority of people will never experience and that you get to share in this experience with these very special people. And that these people have made an impact on your life as you know it and will remain in your hearts no matter what the future holds for all of us. Know that around the corner, there is hope and there is another person in the same situation looking for new connections and friendships. That part of life is learning to be flexible. These friends who are going - if I hadn't had this experience here, I would never have met them, and so for that I'm thankful, sad but thankful. And so I try to look upon this as an opportunity to expand my horizons beyond my front yard (though I have no front yard here, but you get the point) and realize that it's not really good bye, but see you soon.