And moving sucks.
Well, moving is one part of it. The physical act of packing up the important shit in your life and transporting it is one hard step.
But the really hard step is arriving in your new home and being faced with the blank slate that is your new life.
No friends. No daily routine. Not one person to pick up the phone and say, ‘hey do you want to go have a coffee?’
This is the hardest part of the move. I didn’t think it would be so hard, having moved so many times already. You’d think you’d get used to it, or at least know how to anticipate the stress. But the last two weeks have been a huge emotional struggle. Because moving means starting over your life, all over again. And I feel like the marrow has been sucked out of my bones with this one.
But I’ve been asking myself – is this move harder than the others? If so, why? I had to think back, having moved so many goddam times, to try to remember how did I feel then, and is it harder now?
Turkey – Huge culture shock, but I was living with two other Canadian girls, so we kept each other company every day. That was a big help. Made friends with some locals who took us out and introduced us to Turkish culture. Plus it was only 6 months, so time flew.
Tokyo – Arrived completely alone in the biggest city in the world, to teach English. The first month, I had no internet, no TV, and didn’t know anyone. I remember one night walking home from work and crying in the road because I realised I could get knocked down by a car and not one soul, not ONE, would know I was dead. But, made a few good friends, true friends who helped me, a lot. One friend in particular took me under her wing like a family member. I still visit these friends, 10 years later.
Hong Kong – More culture shock, but was super busy with new job in a huge company and it was very social. Going out for lunch, happy hours, hikes, etc. Also met a lot of people. Hong Kong is a VERY socially active place for expats, especially if you work. So you don’t have much time to feel lonely.
Dubai – How lucky was I to have a super amazing friend from Trinidad already living there? Immediate liming partner, what a blessing. Really hard culture shock though, trying to adapt to the reality of life in a patriarchal Middle Eastern city. Did not want to stay, despite the big tax-free lifestyle. Really hated Dubai, in fact, and was glad to leave.
Back to Hong Kong – Like stepping into an old shoe. Friends still there, nice job, lots of friendly faces. Then got pregnant, had a kid, left the job, moved to the tiny village of Mui Wo. Met a lot of nice people around, but it was an adjustment going from being a corporate worker bee to being a stay-at-home mother. Nobody tells you how hard it can be, becoming a mother and not going back to work.
Funnily enough, Mui Wo is probably the place where we know the most people. But I was talking to an expat friend who is still there in Mui Wo and I asked her honestly – you know a lot of people, just like I do, but do you still feel lonely? And her answer to my surprise was yes. Knowing people not does guarantee that you will not feel lonely some times. Because what matters is making a connection. A true connection with someone. There were days I’d take my daughter to the park, and I’d know lots of people there to chat with, but sometimes I’d sit on a bench in despair and think, ‘Why do I still feel so alone?’
Is this just part of the human condition? To feel alone? There’s an old Orange Sky song that goes, ‘We’re all alone, with so many people in this world…’ So true!
Taking about loneliness is a bit taboo – we’re not supposed to say the words ‘I’m lonely’ or else people think you are needy or friendless or pathetic. But people NEED people. And the more I ask people about it, the more they admit to me that yes, indeed, they do feel disconnected, they do lack genuine, close friendships. And moving over and over does not help that situation, because building those connections takes time.
Well, I don’t need to know everyone at the park. But it will be a happy day when there is one friendly face in the crowd, waiting for me.
In the meantime, I’ll keep hanging on until my Japanese language course starts in April, and take one day at a time. I know it will get better. It always does.