I’ve been living away from home for a little over a year now and it is with some amusement I note that it has indeed been a time without friends.
There are things nobody ever tells you about migration in spite of the truckloads of advice you receive about everything from where to live and which car insurance is best. But nothing prepared me for the soul crushing magnitude of loneliness I would feel having moved to a country where I had no close friends.
I came from a place where most of my adult life revolved around time spent with friends. We hung out daily and got so unhealthily involved in each others lives it would put the sitcom Friends to shame. There were weekday drinks and weekend shenanigans not to mention spur of the moment trips that defined the very essence of island life. When I had my baby girl 2 years ago, not much changed, she fitted in to our lifestyle just fine and there were lots of spare laps I could plonk her down on.
And then almost on a whim, we sold our little house that had been overflowing with friends day and night, packed up and moved to a land where I didnt know a soul save for a few random school/college friends I had barely kept in touch with over the years and obviously had absolutely nothing in common with. When I first moved here there were the obligatory catch ups and dinner invites back and forth but you cant keep doing that unless you actually reconnect with these people which I unfortunately didn’t. To be fair though, I didn’t want new friends and almost resented the possibility of new friends when it was slim pickings anyway.
The first few months were a blur of misery as I stayed cooped up in our apartment with an 18 month old baby, making no adult conversation other than with my poor husband, whom I didn’t particularly like most days in my blue funk. Then I went back to work, a fast paced, high stress job in the city that I hated and quit in the first month. Needless to say I made no friends because well, you dont make real friends in that environment. Then I found an amazing job which I absolutely loved and still do. I work with a fantastic group of colleagues, possibly even the best team I have ever worked with and still I dont know if I would call them my friends just yet, although they are the closest thing to friends I have at the moment.
My husband on the other hand has a large group of friends here who he meets regularly but it’s a different dynamic and one where wives are not often included. Try as he may, this makes it difficult for him to comprehend the depth of my loneliness and reservations about this isolated way of life. I hate that he has friends and I dont and I’m also exasperated that not one of his friends have an interesting wife I could have an intelligent conversation with. Truth be told though, I’m not interested in friendship by default, ie. potluck because you are migrants from the same country living in the same postcode. I’d rather stay in touch with my actual friends by choice albeit being on the other side of the world.
I have contemplated this situation objectively like the strategist I am and even considered the possibility that I am a ‘friend-snob’ but honestly I’m not. Yes, I do still hold on to my standards of friendship based on what I’ve known for decades and sometimes I do think I’m too old to make friends from scratch when I already have a bunch of them who are well trained to my quirks. But that doesn’t mean I’m not open to forging new friendships (please god show me one kindred spirit!) and this is not a self-imposed friend fast. I’m genuinely unable meet people I can connect with. 2 years ago I would’ve laughed at anyone who said they cant make friends in a new city. Me, the person who used to talk to strangers on the street and make instant friends, what is wrong with me now?
Well, I do know whats wrong. I’m a thirty something migrant with a toddler and a husband, both demanding equal amounts of attention and I have a full time, all consuming job that drains me (in a good way). I dont have the time to invest in whatever one does in those initial stages of making friends. I dont have time for happy hour or exploring new cafes and I wont do mommy groups unless it involves copious amounts of wine.
I have in due course come to accept my fate with a reluctant sense of humor. It no longer bums me out like it did a few months ago and I’ve become bit of a hermit which is not a bad thing at all. It’s almost funny though how in all the years spent surrounded by friends, I never would have imagined that I would experience, let alone survive, a friendless year.