Now that I’ve moved to the other side of the world, I am often asked about my social life. The short answer is “it’s a work in progress”. As the old song goes, “make new friends, but keep the old; one is silver and the other is gold”. And I’m reminded of this song often, as I navigate my new life (3 months in), Down Under.
My first month was consumed with getting my bearings and settling in at work and home. Finding and furnishing my new place kept me pretty busy. I spent my weekends and most days after work looking for stuff, buying stuff, schlepping stuff. When I was done, I felt very accomplished and happy with the results. I also distinctly remember coming home from work one day, sitting on my new couch and thinking “now what”? I had lots of free time. Clearly a social life was what I needed.
My life in New York was full and I had what one of my friends described as a “robust” social life.
In Sydney, I mostly only knew the folks at work. Not a bad group to be among, for sure, but I also wanted to expand my social circle. I knew that would take new behaviour
on my part. I’m not really unfriendly, but I am an introvert and that looks the same as unfriendly. Can feel like it, too. Making friends on this end would require me to acquire some new skills…some ‘reaching out to people first’ skills. Yikes.
Somewhat reluctantly I joined a few groups, some dedicated to ex-pats, but not all. (InterNations, MeetUp, Urban Bushwalkers, Wild Women on Top, Tinder). This has actually worked out quite well. I’ve met a number of people while having fun……some activities I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy, like hiking and bushwalking. I have two new “friends” that I continue to hang out with outside the groups. Friends is in quotes having nothing to do with these women, but is an acknowledgement
that, while I like them I don’t know them very well and I believe real friendships take awhile to develop. We’re not in grade school where you become best friends with someone you just met.
The folks at work have been especially gracious, including me in various social activities and it’s been great getting to know them outside the office.
I’ve also been fortunate to connect with friends-of-friends, people with whom I have a mutual friend back in the States. That’s been especially nice, as it’s great to have someone who knows the place well, as well as knows this person well so I can ask what they’re like… if they might be crazy. 🙂
And I have added to my social roster two women I met while walking down the street! There are not a lot of black Americans in Sydney so when I see one it’s kind of exciting. In both cases, we saw each other, did a double-take, then stepped out of the way of traffic to chat (“what are you doing here, how long have you been here, who does your hair…”) and exchange phone numbers. Interestingly, both are from New York…and it took moving to the other side of the world for us to meet.
It’s funny; last week I was exhausted as I had (too) many events on my social calendar. That’s when I knew I was well on my way to building a new network of friends and acquaintances on this side of the world. I like it.
And it’s so important to me to make sure I keep my friendships back at home on solid ground. But it’s more complex than I thought it would be. I am delighted, surprised, and disappointed at the way various friends have managed my physical absence.
Pleased. There are a few friends I hear from every week or so. I love it. And I’ve fallen in love with FaceTime and Skype, both of which I used to despise. Nobody looks good on those cameras, especially if caught at the wrong angle. Doesn’t matter; not anymore. I love seeing their faces as we catch up. The distance doesn’t seem so vast when I can see them.
The cameras are also great to be able to show things –what we’ve bought, what we’re doing, what we’re wearing, a new hairdo…whatever.
Surprised. Pleasantly so. I’m in regular touch now with a few people that I spoke with less often when I was back home. I don’t know how or why that happened, but I don’t really care. It’s nice to hear from them.
Disappointed. There are a couple of friends with whom I’m disappointed…and a little hurt that I don’t hear from very often…people with whom I was in regular touch at home and who are near the top of the friend food chain. One person, in a rather uncomfortable conversation, admitted to being embarrassed to admit feeling both some resentment and envy at my move. Resentment because it feels like abandonment. And envy when I talk and post about what I’m up to in this new life phase. Not that their (sic) life is bad, but there’s not much new. I get it and appreciate the honesty. I don’t have insight as to why the others have fallen behind. Sometimes distance is a good excuse to reshape a relationship. Who knows. It’s a little awkward.
Anyway, a good friend from NYC is visiting me now and it’s fantastic having her here and sharing this new place with her. And another will be arriving tomorrow. And if I can get my **** together, I may even have a small gathering at my apartment where I invite my friends, old and new. Could be fun.