Ships in the Night: How to Navigate International Friendships
Updated: Jan 26, 2022
Trust me when I say this one hits close to home.
So, envision this: you've just moved miles away from a country you know and (sometimes) love, and with it, an uprooted social network and countless inside jokes. Friendships already require watering and care for successful growth, but what happens when a whole continent separates you from those you love?
I won't lie and say this has been easy territory for me to traverse. I've adjusted to a new culture and cultivated new friendships surprisingly well, but I do sometimes notice grief bubbles around my connections in the United States. They can sometimes feel like passing ships in the night. Not all of my friendships have taken a blow, but all of them are in a period of transition, growth, and settling. Honestly, I get kind of excited watching that sifting process unfold. I mean, strictly as an observer, it's like watching a puzzle piece itself together. But, I do have some thoughts on this. I'm not here to provide answers today, since I'm still mucking my way through it - just suggestions. Let's muck together, shall we?
Find the early birds, and connect with them on a consistent basis. I've been lucky to have an early bird or two happy to wake up and chat with me during my afternoon tea, and I realize this has been a huge point of grace for me. Not only does it provide a sense of normalcy, the consistency bridges a gap that allows for easy conversational flow, rather than Catching Up. Whew, that's relieving, y'all. Don't just expect phone and video calls to pop up with these friends, either - get it on the calendar!
Stay in the present moment with your various technology platforms - especially navigating international friendships. Back home, I easily wove in and out of conversations with friends and family, even with differing work schedules and time zones. Here, I have to be a bit more conscious about how and when I use chat platforms - because the sheer volume can be a bit overwhelming. As with anything that causes overwhelm, I'm learning to pace myself, be present with each person, and give myself breaks to prevent burnout. How do I do this? Morning meditation - it reminds me to step back and make intentional choices. From this place, I connect to my friends back home, one platform at a time, one day at a time, while also doing my best to stay present to where I am. (Spoiler: I'm in a new country - still not over it!)
Recognize we aren't always meant to bring everyone along with us. Ouch. This one has been harder to accept, but I'm there. We're all living our own lives, and sometimes they naturally go in different directions. This can happen at any point, but is especially noticeable with an overseas move. Some of these shifts have been more surprising than others - expect that. Notice it - it'll help you in the long run. I've made this realization while friend dating, too: some connections are for a season, a week, a lifetime. The less I try to grab hold of a friendship, the more buoyancy and flexibility it has. Truly - this is leveling up.
Beyond the early birds, beyond the technology, beyond the acceptance of change, some friendships just stand the test of time and transition better than others. My closest true-blue relationships don't require constant communication and effort, but even with those, I'd recommend doing your part to keep this fragile friendship garden alive. Sometimes, you just have to move that puzzle piece yourself, you know? But, it's also important to know when to open your hand and let go a bit. (Hey, sounds like words of wisdom from Timothy Leary: "To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.") Give yourself grace - you're in a new home country and cultivating new relationships. The people who love you in other time zones do so without question, no matter how busy their lives are. I'm still teasing all of this out, so I'm all ears if you have anything you'd like to add to this list.
And lastly, to my friends back on their own ships in the United States - thank you for supporting me in this huge life change. Y'all thrill me beyond measure.
Until next time, from my new, cozy home in Vilnius - viso gero!