Being ill is a very easy way to find out who your friends are. Having your elbow operated on means blogging about it isn’t really possible, so I asked Aisha from Expatlogue to write about it for me. Thank you sweetheart x
As I’m here doing a favour for a friend, it seemed like a no-brainer to muse on the nature of friendship – in particular, how it’s affected by distance. There’s nothing like moving to another continent to help you discover who your friends are. I know it seems a little drastic, but I promise you the results will amaze. For starters, it reignites old flames. I’m not talking about ex-boyfriends, I mean those links with the past that have gathered dust and lain forgotten – put off until a more convenient time that never came.
Before you leave, you spend your final weeks crossing miles to gasp “Hello”, and then shortly later, “Goodbye”, shamed into shouldering responsibility for the preceding neglect as penance for your heartless decision to put even MORE distance between you. For some friendships, that will be the final curtain, let off the hook by the impossibility of distance. For others it will be the start of a renaissance, the small sign that was needed to remind hearts that they were indeed held dear, if a little overlooked.
Then there are the passive/aggressive friends who become distant before you even make the ascent to 30, 000ft – some because they resent the pain of a split and can’t help but be mad at you for it, and others because they’re jealous you’re doing something they feel they couldn’t accomplish. If I had a pound for every time I’ve heard, “Wow, I could never do that…” when really, the simple fact that I’m managing it should be proof enough that a good portion of the human race has what it takes, I’d have made it to the Maldives by now.
Some people don’t go in for all that passive/aggressive mind-game stuff, preferring instead to take the opportunity to tell you to your face, in no uncertain terms, how they never really liked you anyway; that was the method favored by my in-laws at any rate.
Aaaaaanyway, as I settled in Canada, my fingers became accustomed to flying across the keys at an eye-watering rate, spilling out my awe and enthusiasm along with my confusion; so much to show, so much to tell, it was like being five again! But it’s impossible to email everyone individually, and a one-size-fits-all group email is the opposite of maintaining a close relationship. Facebook and my blog became my portals to base camp. Through FB I can still peer in the windows of my friends lives and feel involved, just as they can with me, and Expatlogue provides a platform for more in-depth explanations of all those funny Canada-isms. Together they make distance seem irrelevant.
In this new online landscape some people are just the same as they ever were, exchanging comments and funny anecdotes, sharing e-cards that made them laugh and those ubiquitous pictures of cats. Others hang back, still posting, still setting out their shingle with the one small difference that they no longer speak to you, maybe a quiet “Like” now and again lets you know they’re not laboring under the assumption you’re dead, but it’s as though their virtual radius is subject to the limits of geography.
I’ve saved the best for last here, in case you needed cheering up, after all, it can be depressing to discover everyone seems to get along fine without you. A clear, true beauty lies in those friendships that hadn’t developed much past the initial stage of budding potential promise before you left, but that go on to blossom into something you might never have known had 3,500 miles not come and sat down slap! bang! between you.
These are the friendships where you chat online in the same way you would across the kitchen table, cradling a cup of Earl Grey, sharing thoughts and fears and triumphs while you absently trace the wood grain with a finger. The ones where you help each other out, oblivious to different continents and different time-zones, and only semi-conscious of a bitter-sweet ache, that inexplicable sense of “what if’. They’re the friends who’ll post chocolate at the drop of a hat and always know the right thing to say to make you feel understood. They’re the diamonds that make all that rough bearable!
Aisha Isabel Ashraf is a freelance writer and author of the popular blog Expatlogue, where she can be found strung out on caffeine, humorously dissecting the peculiarities of Canadian life for her own amusement and the benefit of future generations.