Well, not France specifically. But it really, really sucks to be living abroad.
Today is the day my best friend from college gets married. In Philadelphia. 4,619 miles away.
And I’m not there.
Of course, I knew weeks ago that I wouldn’t be able to attend. The cost of a plane ticket and the logistics of figuring out childcare for my son during a non-school-vacation week were just too tricky. For a while, I thought I would be able to swing it, and I was disappointed when I realised it wouldn’t be possible.
But I didn’t anticipate how gutted I would feel today. How left out.
And how much being so far away really fucking sucks on days like this.
Because on the one hand, it feels like everyone celebrates everything without me. The last time I was home for Christmas was 2012. I’ve been home once for Halloween. I’ve missed family birthday parties and graduation parties. I’ve never been to one of my cousin’s dance recitals. I don’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving with my family, or Easter, or Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.
And on the other hand, it seems really petty to be complaining about being left out of celebrations when I made the choice to move far away. On days like today, when I feel sad and lonely and like I’m missing out on important events in the lives of people I love, it also seems selfish to make someone else’s celebration about me.
And today, I’m missing this wedding.
The wedding of one of my dearest friends, who drove 6 hours to be in my wedding, during Hurricane Irene.
Who discovered the little crêpe place on rue Rambuteau where they make nice, thick crêpes and smother them with lots of Nutella, that she found when we were roommates during study abroad in 2008, and where I still go sometimes.
Who went to Italy with me during our study abroad, and helped me celebrate my 21st birthday by eating 22 different scoops of gelato (one for good luck, of course!). I meticulously noted the 22 different flavours I tried, because I refused to count any flavours twice; she ordered Yogurt and Nutella each time and insisted that my rules were bogus.
Tonight, as I’m looking at candid shots on Facebook of my friend and her sister getting ready, of my other college friends who are there to celebrate, it’s just one of the things that hurts about living abroad.
Because it’s not just the missed parties. It’s about the growing apart, because I have a kid, and she has a full-time job, and coordinating Skype dates becomes harder and harder across a 6-hour time difference and two busy lives.
It’s the friends I’ve lost touch with, or don’t talk to as much as I’d like to. How many wonderful women friends do I have, theoretically, in the four corners of the globe, whom I only connect with on Facebook by liking pictures of their pets and their babies and their new houses?
One of the things I didn’t realise when moving abroad is that the onus for maintaining all relationships would henceforth fall to me. Even though international communication is easier and cheaper than ever, and we all have iMessage and FaceTime and WhatsApp, the time difference means I have to arrange things. I have to call. Navigating dialing an international number, or even sending mail internationally, is apparently too complicated for most people. It means sometimes feeling resentful in my friendships, because I feel like I’m always the one making the effort, and if I don’t, the friendship will fade away. If I really mattered to this person, they would call *me* occasionally, I think, when I’m feeling particularly self-pitying. Of course, it’s normally out of courtesy that they’re not calling me after work, at 11 PM or later.
The truth is, friendships and relationships, even with family, aren’t the same when you live far away. It’s hard for our people to understand how we can simultaneously be called to be where we are – away – and yet, still long for the comforts of home and the closeness of local friends and family.
And unfortunately, it seems to be one of those things that doesn’t really go away. I’ve lived in France for nearly 10 years, and the distance has only made me sadder as time goes on, as more milestones are missed, and as my son grows without the benefit of local family.
So today, I’m homesick. And I’m wishing I could be there to celebrate Molly and her new husband. Mazel tov to the newlyweds.