you and me

Go Love Some More: A Tale of Expat Friendship.

 

I didn’t want to write this.

I didn’t want to write about the fevered secret promises I made to myself when I moved. The ones a woman makes when she’s about to put an ocean between herself and everything she’s ever known and loved. Everything that made her her.

I will find my tribe again.

I will figure out where I belong.

I will matter to someone.

I will love and be loved.

I will love and be loved. Isn’t that the silent mantra we’re all repeating — whether we know it or not — as we move through our daily lives? I will love and be loved. Because without that, nothing else I do matters.

But how do you find love when you’ve declared tabula rasa? When you’ve willingly accepted the free fall? When you’ve chosen to wander by your wild self in the lonesome forest?

At first I wasn’t sure I knew where I was going. I pasted on the name tag and the fake smile, and prayed each time I met a new soul, please be as weird as me, please be as weird as me, please be as weird as me.

It was all so damn tiring.

Then, slowly, my life abroad stopped having that dreaded new car smell. The smiles felt less fake. The words I said were no longer lines rehearsed in my head. Going to parties, tinkling a glass of wine in my hand, and charming the hell out of everyone I met felt less like going in front of a firing squad. Do or die, little girl. Otherwise, you may not be invited to the next one.

And then I started to find them.

My family.

I know, I know, there’s no place like home. But the secret nobody tells you before you move is that these friendships you form overseas can be just as deep as the ones you’ve held since your youth. Sometimes, if I’m telling the truth, even deeper.

We are held together not simply by history or geography, but in a common wiring in our DNA, the desire to seek, to move further, to firebomb our comfort zones. We were all the weird ones where we came from. The little girls who refused to grow up and be installed behind the proverbial picket fences of our hometowns. The ones for whom normal lives felt like too small sweaters.

Fuck knowing where I’m going. Fuck safety.

And then, because the Universe is kind, we found each other.

We found each other, oh yeah. And suddenly, these strangers became wound deeper into my life than I ever could have imagined. We were bound by similar desires, passions, drives, and insecurities. We weathered the wilds of the lonesome forest together. Through true love,  unrequited crushes, and one-night stands. Through broken partnerships, dead ends, deaths. We were there for each other.

These women were my sutures. The invisible steel that held me together. Jai Guru Deva. They were my teachers, my angels.

I have become an even deeper and truer version of who I am meant to be, because of the people I have met on this path. My angels, my teachers. The ones with whom I laugh and cry with equal abandon. The ones who get my train platform dance parties and my midnight rants. The ones who were the answer to my mantra: please be as weird as me please be as weird as me please be as weird as me.

They made this strange place home.

The ugly secret nobody tells you when you move abroad — the secret you still know deep down in your bones — is that the humanest of human cycles — the cycle of love, loss and rebirth — is sped up on the expat path. Oh, fuck you, it’s sped up. I tried to pretend it wasn’t true. I tried to pretend that I was living in a world of kindred spirits a la L.M Montgomery. But then the first shoe dropped:

I’m leaving.

Then the second shoe dropped:

I’m leaving too.

And the waters started churning again.

Everybody knows that goodbyes are part of the expat landscape. They loom, long shadows on your summer evening, a quiet warning that fall will inevitably come again. And then — please, no — winter.

I smiled. Whilst inside I felt kicked in the stomach. I was happy. Of course I was happy, of course I was happy. Who isn’t elated to see somebody they love take the next step on their life’s journey? The step they are meant to be taking? The step that will lead them into an even higher manifestation of their truest selves?

Where does this leave me? Where does this leave me? Where does this leave me?

Does it leave me in the forest again? Fuck the forest. I’m over the forest. I don’t want to be in the forest anymore.

But oh, honey, here’s the secret: we’re all in the forest. Whether we like it or not. Whether we’re partnered or single, we’re in the forest. Whether we’re on top of the world, or scraping from the underbelly, we’re in the forest. These feelings of connection — temporary bliss — enjoy them, because they are fleeting. We’re all wandering in the same dark forest, riding that same wave.

We all have the same choice: let go or be dragged.

I finally had something good. Something I didn’t want to open my passport, get on a plane, and fly away from.

Fuck that wave, man. Fuck it.

But I’m on it. Might as well ride. Might as well accept my fierce web of love growing larger, now spanning four fucking continents.

Let go or be dragged, kiddo.

Times like this, I’m always reminded of my favorite movie, Harold & Maude. Maude is a vibrant older woman who embraces life with gusto and lives every moment to the fullest. She’s an unrelenting optimist, even though life has given her reasons not to be. And then there’s Harold. A young man who is afraid to live. They find each other. And then (spoiler alert) on Maude’s 80th birthday, she decides to go out in a blaze of glory.

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Alyssa Oh is an American expat and writer currently making mischief in Zürich, Switzerland. She writes about travel, zen, finding oneself, and falling in love with this gorgeous disaster we call life on The Offbeat Adventuress, for travelers, dreamers, and all those who dance to the beat of their own drum.

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