Special days and mixed emotions

Another 25th birthday has come and gone. All in all I had a good day, but after, the wreckage of depression has begun. It’s not just a getting older thing, because I’ve decided never to do that, and have had mixed success. I think it is, in part, that birthdays are really that big of a deal until you spend so many away from many of the people you love.

Ultimately it brings up the whole problem with living in a foreign country at all. You will always miss somebody, and you will always miss places you called home. Maybe foreign is the wrong word. Places far enough away from your home to be strikingly different might be a better phrase. I’ve lived significant amounts of time in three countries, and I feel homesick for two. I know if I left the UK, I’d yearn to return as well.

There is a safety in staying near the familiar, to being within easy driving distance of where you were brought up. But there are times I wouldn’t trade the sadness, yearning and loss for the contentment of only knowing the familiar outside of short trips. Being exposed to people of so many different cultures and faiths, learning how to navigate a country both bureaucratically and culturally, understanding and appreciating what makes up a certain nation’s (or city or region’s for that matter) character. All this doesn’t help when you’re missing people and places, but you can never go home again when you’ve had a home elsewhere.

Another cost is totally forgetting people from your past. You know, the minor characters you knew in school or university. I think Facebook has underscored this for me. I will see an old friend and look at their friends list. A huge number of names will sound familiar, but I won’t be able to remember anything but a vague recognition that I might have been in class with them or sang choir at their side. My sister or mother might bring up that someone had a tragic accident and died or that they had a child, and I will have no clue who they are talking about. “You went to school with them! They were a year ahead of you!” It’s like having early senility. And when you do manage to recognise people, they are so old because you haven’t watched them age. I see old people when I explore my Facebook friends list too deeply, old and fat people.

But a lot of the people who chose to stay in my small town seem happy. Maybe I am just making that judgement based on how happy they look in Facebook piccies. Part of it definitely is my idea that people shouldn’t and wouldn’t stay where they are unhappy, but I also ended up staying in Western NY for the good part of a decade. I wasn’t entirely unhappy; I was in a sort of suspended animation waiting to immigrate.

So if (some) people are truly happy staying put, and I am ambivalent moving countries so much, have I made bad decisions about moving about? No, because deep down I think that no matter if I stayed within 50 miles of my hometown or even within its borders, I would miss the life I didn’t have out in the world. I would be homesick for places I’ve never been. In a way, I am that way now, wanting to see and experience something new. I remember being 18 years old and having to spend another year in my high school due to my year abroad and having unbearable anxiety about being trapped there and crippling jealousy for anyone who left.

So instead of staying in one place geographically, I will stick with staying some place chronologically. I am 25 years old and will stay there until I decide to move on.


2 Responses to “Special days and mixed emotions”

  1. 1 Lauren
    4th Aug 2010 at 06:13

    Hi Molly,
    Been reading your blog – glad to see someone else is experiencing alot of the same concerns as I am! Just returned to Philadelphia from a year abroad at Oxford and am pretty sure I want to be back in England ASAP, just very hard at times to take the path less traveled, especially when you have no concrete reasons, just feelings, to do it! Hope everything is working out well for you and that you are happy with the relocation; it will give me confidence to move forward!

  2. 4th Aug 2010 at 08:59

    Thanks for the comment, Lauren. Things are going well, probably better than a blog will let on. It’s just easier sometimes to vent here than to bring my husband down. He is, by the way, the concrete reason I’m here. Although I think if I hadn’t met him or if we had decided to settle in the US rather than here, I would have felt like I had missed out on something.

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