As I start to pack my suitcases once again, I realise that this is the first time I have felt any doubt about whether or not leaving (and effectively, starting again) is the right option for me.
You’ve probably gathered that Miss D, L and J are not quite where we were two years ago. Our writing kind of fizzled out as one of us moved back to the UK, one of us became pregnant and the other began to live a (only very slightly) more settled life in Australia.
That isn’t to say that our lives have become boring in that time – rather that we have all had our reasons for not feeling as free to share our opinions or experiences. I know for myself, I felt very different writing about my various misadventures and sharing admittedly controversial opinions while I was away in backpacker mode – feeling pretty anonymous and invincible – than I do now I’m back in the UK, surrounded by people who know me, and concerned with keeping a professional job and professional image.
My friend from university came to stay with me a few weeks ago. This was both a good and bad thing.
Firstly, while it was really nice to see somebody from home, I am working here. It’s a bit depressing to see her and not be able to actually do anything. Also, it’s a bit of a disruption to my life. My room here is tiny – I don’t even have furniture, and it had to become home to all of her belongings too.
Most of the above, I really don’t mind, but the main thing is time. I haven’t seen her since I finished university a year ago. I’ve barely spoken to her since then. I’ve worked in Korea and she’s worked in Spain. We’ve both done a lot, and changed a lot since we last saw eachother. I don’t tell people from home the majority of what happens here, and I’ve been away from home for eleven months now. I’ve got used to living within Asian culture and have been moulded by the people I’ve met and the relationships I’ve had with them in that time. I’ve probably become a different person, and there is a sea of information and happenings that people from home have no idea about. And it’s probably the same for my friend.
For friends that used to live together, and therefore knew everything about each other, it is a bit strange. It’s a funny feeling to go from being so close to being so…. distant; to go from knowing everything to knowing nothing. Though they say that true friends can go months without seeing or communicating with each other, and this is true, there is such a vast amount that has happened since we last saw each other, and there’s no way really to bridge it. Our friends aren’t even mutual anymore, it’s a strange situation. Our stories wouldn’t make sense to one another without a ton of background information, and everything would take far longer to explain than we have.
Obviously, our senses of humor are the same as they were, and our interests remain largely unaltered. We still get on, fantastically, and it’s still a friendship I want to keep. But now there are jokes or comments that the other doesn’t understand, ulterior motives to things, and even habits that we are unaware of.
How much things have changed since I’ve been away has been highlighted by my friend’s visit. When I’d return to my hometown after four months of uni, the only thing that made me realise I’d even be gone would be the odd new shop in town or new bedding in my parent’s house. This has been far longer, so I guess the effects are stronger. The longer you are away and out of what so many regard ‘real life’, the further you drift from those that are still there, the harder it becomes to have anything even to say to each other. Your priorities are different, your lifestyles are different, your mindset is different, and it becomes more and more difficult to relate to their problems or successes, as even these seem strange and unfamiliar – things that you may consider not even worth mentioning, or things that are just so far from your version of reality now that you can’t really comprehend them.
I’ve heard the same can happen even to those who stay at home: there is an age at which many start to settle, get married, have children. For the ones that don’t have any desire to do this at this time, if ever, they find the friendships with their friends become hard to maintain. People that used to be so similar become so different, and resentment builds up easily. This person who chooses not to get married and have children when everyone around her seems to be finds conversations suddenly consist only of ‘wedding talk’ and ‘baby talk’ and finds herself uninterested and therefore excluded. I guess it’s a similar thing.
The friend who visited me was one of the people I was closest to in England, and so it makes me wonder how life will be when I go back, if I go back. In my head, everyone I left behind is still a friend as close as they were when I was there, despite the fact we don’t communicate as much. But for those still there, do they regard me in the same way, or have I simply disappeared? For those that consider our friendship ready to be picked up again on my return, will we find we have drifted apart too much to do so? Will it be possible to bridge the gap that my long absence has undoubtedly caused?