I’m walking around streets, passing by another Christmas decoration displayed on shop window when it hit me: it’s less than a month until Holidays. I’m quickly going down the memory lane in my head when I realize that this year Christmas will be 4th year in a row when I won’t be spending this time with my family. This year it feels different, again. It’s warm following by getting warmer each day, and I do believe that by the Christmas, Sydney will be taken over by full-time summer. Can’t complain, it was my decision to leave home and become and expat.
Since I turned 18, I kind of knew I won’t stay in Poland. I remember when, for the first time in my life, I went further away. It was right after graduating high school and me and my best friend moved to Wales for couple of months to work and save some money before going to Uni. Even thou it wasn’t too far, I was still stunned by how different life is just few countries away. Suddenly, I discovered that I don’t HAVE TO stay in Poland just because I was born there. I made up my mind and this decision has been growing in me through my 5 years of University. Taking an internship in Majorca and going on a student’s exchange to Latvia only made me realize that my life is not meant to be lived in one place.
I wanted more. I wanted to change the scenery behind the window. I wanted to change my zip code and phone number… every few months. I wanted to meet new people, go away, buy new flight to… whenever and live my life as an expat. I’ve been traveling on and off for past 3.5 years, settling here and there for short period of time, just to charge my batteries (and my bank account) and have another place in my life I can call home.
Although most of my travels and move-ins were an amazing adventure, there was something I didn’t see coming: loneliness. It’s all great and stuff when you pack your backpack and hit the road again but along with that comes goodbyes. Once you live in one place long enough to bond with some people and soon to call them friends, you can’t imagine not having them in your everyday life. The truth is: there’s nothing you can do about it. Few weeks later, you’ll go to the airport, shed one or two tears, mumble ‘it’s not goodbye, it’s see you later’ and walk with your head up to an airplane just to get off in another place, few time zones away, where the new story is about to begin.
Since I moved to Australia, long distance relationship with N. isn’t the only one I’m trying to maintain. We’ve been doing it for 5 months now, with 10-days break for holidays in Bali; sometimes is better, sometimes is worse but overall we manage just fine.
What comes along with such big distance (or any distance for that matter) is sad truth that I’m no longer present in every day life of my closest ones. We still talk, the very same way like we’d talk if I was only few streets away, but I can’t not feel the ocean between us. Every morning I wake up with my phone drowning with messages and missed phone calls from different time zones. Most of the time I’m not even a part of the conversation because when I’m awake, most of my family & friends are asleep and the other way around: when I’m headed to bed, my phone starts to get active again.
While being away, I have to live with knowledge that I’ve been missing out on many things. Weddings, anniversaries, family events, dinners with my girls, movie dates, welcoming new family member and saying last goodbye to the loved ones. There comes the times that this undefined loneliness appears twice as strong, in situations such as celebrating your anniversary over FaceTime at Mc Donald’s, birthday over the phone and vision of another Christmas without family dinner at my parent’s house.
Everything happens where I’m not around. One of my girlfriend recently got married, the other one got engaged… another friend of mine will soon have a baby and I just missed baby shower she threw. I wish I was there. I wish I could be around to hold their hands when they need me, congratulate in person, share a hug or simply be present. It’s just not easy, when you are thousands kilometres and few time zones away.
Every day, when I wake up, I count. I count how many hours difference I have with everyone I care about. I look at the clock and think who could be awake – yet or still – so I can call them. I know that I have 4 hours difference with East Java, 9 hours difference with Latvia and Greece, 10 with Poland, 11 with Ireland, 16 with Florida and South Carolina and 21 with Hawaii. This is how I’ve been functioning since 5 months. Only 3 more and I’ll be back in Latvia. One more time I’ll change my home address. Few people will be closer by distance but for everyone else only time difference will change.
Traveling and living in – more or less – distance places taught me a lot; changing my zip code every now and then, I had to learn how to adapt quickly, fit in new group of friends, slow down or pick up the pace, depending on where I ended up. I had to find new job, constantly fighting with “good luck with that, my friend was looking for a job there for a month and she didn’t find anything”, prove myself that “yes, I can do it”, that decent dose of determination is good enough to succeed.
I learned how to fight jet lag, distance, time difference, but what I always loose against, is the thought on the back of my head, which never let me forget that no matter where I am, someone will always be far and someone else even further away; that people who were present in my every day life for so long, next time we meet, will be present long enough to drink 2 coffees in a café, one pizza on the couch in the living room, or half glass of wine before we say goodbye once again.
Sorry for not adding pictures with everyone. I just don’t have them 🙁