This is an odd post to write and I'm not sure whether it's the right thing to do, to write it out in public. That sounds dramatic - I promise it's nothing horrendous! I guess I should start by saying that this post is about observation, not accusation, and something that I've been reflecting on for some time now. It's part of human nature, and probably only taken me this long to come to writing about it because I'm just as guilty of it as anyone. It's also not something I see as an 'issue', as I accept that a) all people are different; b) I get things wrong all the time, so this post (and any of my thoughts) are hardly conclusive; and c) I'm just musing out loud, so it's nothing personal.
Since I've been in the States, I think I've made a pretty good effort to be accessible and regularly available for multiple methods of communication. Through mobile media, social networking, the wonders of Skype, email, and even good ol' snail mail, I think I've done a pretty good job of keeping in touch and keeping people updated back home. Admittedly I'm less good with the birthday cards and presents than I used to be, for both financial and distance reasons (although with companies like Amazon and Moonpig, this is hardly an excuse), but other than that I hope I've made the effort for family and friends alike.
Even back home, I was always a person that made a huge effort to keep in touch. I seem to have an inherent fear of losing people from my life, which is odd, as I've never really 'lost' anyone in a significant way. It might be because I moved from what I considered my home town at age 6 and that really distressed me, leaving me feeling uprooted and detached, but that's conjecture at best - so many things have happened since then! It isn't obvious why I am so keen on maintaining links, but whether it's nature or nurture, it's how I am. I send cards, and I text, and I email at length. I remember birthdays, anniversaries (and by remember, I mean 'have them in my Filofax with something of a religious annual update to make sure I don't forget'), spend ages and take pleasure in finding ideal gifts for those I love, and really enjoy getting little surprises for those I care for 'just because'.
|Aboriginal symbols for colonies or campsites, |
symbolising the idea that home is where you are.
I guess what I am a little saddened by is that I've hardly heard from some people at all, despite my efforts at keeping in touch, and these are people who I was very close with before I left. I'm not saying I'm shocked by this development, and I know that it was my choice to leave (and a great choice it was, too!), as well as the aforementioned difference between my version of 'keeping in touch' and that of most others. But it still stings a little, and there's not really anything I can do about it, other than keep trying. Also, oddly enough, it's actually happened on both sides of the pond. I've found my friendships here developing in ways that I wasn't expecting; those I thought I might be closest with have sometimes turned out to be treasured but nevertheless distant friends.
On the flip side, and the positive aspect that I'd rather focus on, I've been pleasantly surprised by finding people who seem more like me, and who have crept up on me gently (in a non-stalker like fashion), making me feel special and loved in a way I inherently understand and appreciate so much. I've also been happily surprised by the efforts some of the people I'd generally been a bit more reserved around back home, and now I speak with them certainly more frequently than I would have while in England, and possibly more openly, too.
From reading around the subject a little it seems that any expat has, by leaving their motherland, damned themselves to a lifetime of constant comparison. One thing I haven't read much about it how that links to the people known in both (or each of the) countries that the expat returns to. I'm not the kind of person who wants to country-hop and live all over the world - I'm not that sort of 'free spirit', but I'd say I'm definitely a divided soul. I know for a fact that I am not a child of the world, but an English girl who loves being part American.
Without a doubt, I have some wonderful friends on both continents. I am a lucky, lucky girl. But how a person relates to their experiences is inevitably entrenched in who experiences those things with them, as I wrote about back in March. So telling the Brits about American adventures or vice versa is likely to be a pointless task, even though humanity is of course all connected. The lack of cultural context, but possibly more importantly, communal, real-time simultaneous experience, means that all discussion lacks some depth in this instance. I'm also rather fascinated by the point of switch-over, when the new country becomes more relevant in your day-to-day existence, but it's not your original home. Is this a healthy thing, and how does it impact on your motherland friends when suddenly your birth country is less significant than the country in which you're currently living?
his stunning commencement speech 'This is Water', "Think about it: there is no experience you've had that you were not at the absolute centre of. The world as you experience it is right there in front of you, or behind you, to the left or right of you, on your TV, or your monitor, or whatever. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real - you get the idea." It may not have crossed others' minds to check in with me more regularly, or they may not have known what to say or ask, or maybe I'm not asking them enough about how they are and how we are - illustrating the inevitable confusion that arises from having to impute others' actions without knowing the possible internal and external influences over their behaviour that has nothing to do with us personally. There is also the possibility that they just don't really find my experiences here relevant so aren't asking because they aren't fussed about hearing about them, or are confused or hurt by my decision to leave. While ostensibly they support me, they may not take an interest because they don't really believe in why I am here. I have to consider that too, but I also need to remember that's only one possible conclusion.
As I said right at the beginning, this is a post meant for discussion and thought, not an accusatory missive directed at people I've not spoken to much of late. There are so many reasons that that could have happened, and all I can do is hope to remedy it with you. If we've not spoken a lot over the last ten months, know that I miss you, and I love you, and if you send me your address, I'm pretty sure you'll get a glitter-filled, excessively cheery missive headed your way in the very near future.