You don’t move to the other side of the world and a year later still have the same friends. You gain some, and you lose others. That’s just how it is. And obviously moving to the other side of the world is a factor specific to expat life. But actually, when you think about it, some friendships evolve and grow whatever the circumstances of life, and other friendships fizzle away to unfamiliarity no matter how hard you try.
Since moving to Singapore I’ve found the changing dynamic of friendships to be magnified. At home I have a core group of friends. Home being the UK that is. And these are the friendships that seem to be immune to the passing of time, miles apart and timezone differences. These friendships are based on a solid bedrock of years spent surviving an all girls high school together.
I won’t lie, there have been some SPECTACULAR fall outs over the years. One of my closest (and longest enduring) friendships is with someone who I spent a large amount of my teenage years hating the guts of. The feeling was mutual so she won’t mind me saying that. And we laugh about it now that we’re a decade older (actually about fifteen years older, yikes), and now that we know drinking shots with one another is WAY more fun than firing shots at one another. The wonders of growing up.
But that’s just one example of a friendship that has endured. There are so, so many others that have fallen by the wayside. And it’s not that I don’t still intrinsically care for the lost friendships, of course I do, but life changes. Friendships change. Singapore happened. And I’ve changed.
Before I moved here I was clinging on to so many friendships. But since introducing the added complexity of distance and a significant timezone, those fractured friendships have finally broken off. I’m not quite so brutal as to go on a Facebook friend purge, I enjoy seeing these people’s successes in life, but I’m not about to start trying to rebuild what’s no longer there. Although I must admit I did go on a savage Facebook unfriending mission once and got rid of all the girls from school who made me feel like shit then and made me feel like shit now. There was something terribly cathartic in wielding the power for once, and cutting them out of my social media life (and for the most part my actual life) once and for all. But you can’t miss what you never had, and they were never real life friends anyway.
There are others though, others who have shared life defining moments and experiences with me or I with them, who I’m not really friends with anymore. I know what they’re doing in life, where they live, the names of their boyfriends / fur babies / pet house plant. But I don’t KNOW them. I couldn’t sit down for a drink with them and it feel like no time had passed since we last saw one another. It would be awkward, and in that silence would be the deafening realisation that we’ve neglected our friendship until it’s come to this. Two strangers who know each other very, very well.
But then there’s the flip side. The new friendships that blossom. And at no point in my life has this been more important, or more cherished, than when we moved to Singapore. It’s not the easiest of places to make friends (see point 5. here). Or the easiest of scenarios (see here and here). But it is possible. Vital, even. No man is an island, right? Well no woman is either.
I’ve discovered old friendships that have found new ground since moving here. And treasured brand new friendships that have come about because we’re here. The expat friendships that throw random people together. People from different countries, cultures and backgrounds who happen to end up in the same place at the same time. The new friendships are so different to those which have lasted since childhood. But then, because of and alongside my new friendships, my children are forming some of their most meaningful childhood friendships.
And it’s so surreal to think that they’re only a little bit younger, a few years maybe, than I was when I met one of my other closest friends. Not the friend I mentioned earlier in the post. No this friend and I have had a far less tumultuous friendship over the years. Teenage years included. But it’s a friendship that has withstood and outlasted every other significant relationship I’ve ever had in my life (family aside). And recently, as I watched this friend marry her one, my little girl acted as her Flower Girl. So sweet, yes, but also it got me thinking… is that my daughter and her closest friend in twenty five years time? It sounds so corny and cliched, I know. But at the same time, could it be?
Could their friendship, one based on pool time frolics and movie marathons at age four, last the years? It’s definitely possible. And with the absence of family nearby, friendships are all we have to fall back on as expats. Both for grown up expats, and the mini people we have along with us for the ride.