A conversation with a friend recently caused me to think a lot about the way my life has changed - the way I have changed - since I moved to the UK 9 years ago. I realised that it is so easy to look at your life from within and struggle to see the achievements or the growth, to frustrate yourself with feeling stagnant, or simply ignore the processes you have gone through and how different the person you have become may be from the person you once were. I myself was very guilty of that until called on to advise a friend about the next step in her life.
See, she had moved away from friends, family and the life that she knew - much the way I did 9 years ago - but went back. After getting there... she was conflicted. Didn't know where she actually wanted her life to be. Missed here, missed what she had left there but couldn't re-live, and basically felt a little lost.
Feeling lost is something I feel I have had a bit of practice at over the last few years, and when she asked me for my experiences and opinions, all I could do was think back on my own life, give MY experiences, and encourage her to figure out what it was that she really wanted for herself. In doing that, however, I was shocked at what I saw when I looked at my progress.
Though I had never really felt that I had achieved much of significance - my accomplishments were all well and good, but nothing spectacular (in my estimation) and frankly, should have been so much more - looking back at my journey made me realise a few things.
I HAVE changed. Out of necessity. And I think, at least partly, positively.
Because of this experience, I have learned that I am an individual in my own right. Not tied to other people as "someone's friend", or "someone's daughter", or even "that girl that is good at that thing"... I have had to spend a lot of time struggling with myself and who I really am. I honestly don't think I would have done that if I had stayed at home and never really been forced to question it. It hasn't been easy. It hasn't all been nice. I am still struggling with a lot of it, to be honest! And though I don't have all the answers, I do like that I have had to think about it. About what Really matters to me and how to make sure that I can hold on to those things in my life.
That said.... at no point in all this for me, was I completely certain about the choices I was making. Each and every one of them seemed like a big, scary, terrifying step which could very easily backfire on me and crush the hopes that I had in them... and in some cases, it did. But you keep going, because you have to, and somehow things develop. Somehow you go on.
One of my biggest struggles initially was to do with the people I had left behind. I had friends and family that were so much a part of my life that I never thought I would be able to live without them being a day to day part of it. That was one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with when I was over here at first... and frankly, I didn't cope with it all that well.
I held on to home so hard for the first year or so that I don't think I really Was here. But slowly and surely, it became painfully obvious to me that every time I went back, things just weren't the same. The people weren't there waiting for me to pick up the life I was holding onto so hard... I mean they were there, but their lives had been going on whilst I was away and I wasn't as much a part of them in the same way. And yes, I had times that I felt terribly terribly alone regardless of where I was.... thinking that the other place would be so much better if I could only be there at that point.
When I finally started living my life more for where I was and what I was experiencing, some strange things started to happen. The friendships that weren't really all that important started to fade a little and lost their appeal, and the ones that were the strongest, continued on, in a very similar way to before I left.... Obviously, I wasn't seeing people constantly or attached at the hip to anyone anymore... but the friendships that really mattered were still there, one way or another. I had to make an effort to make sure that I still included them in the bits of my life that I could.... trying to keep people informed of what was going on in the mundane parts of my life, seeing them (and usually picking up much where we left off) whenever I was able to, making skype dates or phone dates so that I could hear important news or just what was happening in their lives..... and I needed to accept that as we get older, things change. But even scattered around the globe, friendships are more than possible. (My multiple bridesmaid's duties all around the world prove that - just once it might be nice to know what it is like to be in the same country as the bride leading up to the wedding!)
sundays.... and I wouldn't give them up for anything.
On the other side of things, I do regret missing out on some of the most important parts of my little brother and sister's lives. I don't think I have the relationship with them that I would like to have and it hurts to know that.... I do what I can to make sure that I am still a part of their lives, but I know I would have liked to have been able to be there for them a lot more - and I would probably understand them a lot better - if I had been there for them physically too.
Being this far away from my family in general, has made me really aware of valuing the time with them when I have it and making sure I create time to keep that link strong. It isn't easy, and it isn't ideal, but it is something that we have made work and which you can make the most of - especially in this day and age. Your family will ALWAYS be your family. Your good friends, if they are really your good friends will ALWAYS be your good friends (albeit in a different fashion sometimes). What I came to realise, however, is that You, need to live YOUR life... not theirs.
Over all, I have become stronger. I am much more aware of myself and my feelings. I don't do everything people of expect of me, just because they expect it.... which is not to say I try to let people down, just that I don't feel I have to subjugate myself in order to make everyone else happy. And though the path is still far from smooth, I know that the person I have become is one that has the ability to take chances that are important to her, hold on to the dreams that keep her going, and hopefully someday, will put the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle of her life together enough to see - and like - the bigger picture.