Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The year I didn't want friends (a story of loss and denial)

It was a different time then. The digital world was waking up; MySpace and AOL messenger were the popular kids. Facebook hadn't started its global stalking, calling and counting any know person as a friend. SD cards were still inked, paper note cards and your contact list was your brain holding only as many digits as you could remember. You had to get off your chat if your brother wanted to call his girlfriend from the home phone, cause it was the only phone you had, and the computer and phone hadn't learned how to share.
My Journal

This was the time my parents had to spend an entire year in the United States. And a year was longer then than it is now. Much longer. Everything was slower; life was a six part BBC movie, not a TBS sitcom.

I offered to stay behind. After all, boarding school would be the same if they were in South America or North America. But it made my mom sad when I said it so I stopped saying it.

It wasn't that I didn't want to be in "the states". Who wouldn't want to have gushers in their lunch every day and root beer in a never ending flow called "free refills"? It wasn't that I didn't want a yard and my family, or a place where I didn't still stumble over the language, where I looked like everyone else and clothes fit every time, all the time. It was that I knew what it was like when you left people who were always being left. You vanished and it didn't matter. It was a liability to hold on. I knew cause I was one of them. A letter-goer.

The start of the year of "non-friendship"
My parents thought I was worried about making new friends, but I had perfected the process through years of practice. Making friends was like breathing, it just happened.

Only I didn't want new friends. I already had friends. I knew where they were, what they would be doing, and I knew I wouldn't be there and that no one would notice. The world would keep spinning only I would be at the wrong end of the table, trying to yell across the distance, hearing the laughter but not the joke.

So that's when I decided, I decided not to bother. I decided not to make friends.  I would count this year as a mulligan and just move past it. Why bother when it's just one year. That phrase, just one year, was the anti wrinkle cream that sucked the sand out of the hourglass in my mind. I resolved to be the wind, passing through with nothing more than a whistle, unseen by the world around me while inflicting a hurricane of connection to my friends back in Ecuador. Email would be my surrogate and somehow I would find a way to channel into that world leaving only a body to go through the motions in this one.

I failed miserably. Just a year lasted a whole calandar year as it usually does, all six BBC VHS cassets with both opening AND closing credits, including the time it takes to rewind them all. And like those that lived on without me, so I lived on without them. And at the end of that year I hugged my friends who sobbed into my shoulders and penned into my yearbook email addresses based on my well intentioned, yet empty, promises to keep in touch, knowing my promises had the strength of tissue, able to dry tears but lacking the fortitude to stand upon.

I said goodbye to friends who only spoke one language, English, which I now knew was my second language, shadowed by the language of the sojourner, primarily composed of hellos followed directly by goodbyes.

And when I returned to Ecuador I was welcomed as easily as I was dismissed. For that was and is our way. The way of the patterned nomad, the unlost wanderer, the TCK.

By the way, for a more technical look into how TCKs go about the friend making process check out this blog post by Michèle Phoenix, TCK, boarding student, and writer.

What coping techniques have you tried for the constant pattern of loss that comes with the life of a TCK? Which have failed? Which have worked? 

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