By far the greatest double-edged sword of living abroad is the relationships you form. They’re at the same time more intense than others in many ways and yet painfully brief. Summer is a time many expats move on to the next assignment, often while children are off school and work slows down a bit. It’s a season of goodbyes, and as a fellow expat said to me recently, they never get easier.
Last week, my first and closest female friend here in Tokyo relocated to Europe to begin the next phase of her life. While I knew it certainly wouldn’t be a fun day when she left, it didn’t really hit me until we were parting ways at my front door. I guess I’d kept some hope in the back of my mind their plans would change. But I’m thrilled for her nevertheless and know we will remain in touch.
In this odd sort of life, the friendships you develop can really be a lifeline. They’re the people you lean on when you have crises large and small — whether it’s a piece of mail you can’t read or a fight with your spouse about what the hell you’re supposed to be doing now. You find comfort in shared discomfort.
The silver lining of these friendships is the mark they leave on you. I learned from my friend how to be more brave, to put myself out there and make my opportunities instead of waiting for them to come to me. I’ve never been much of an extrovert. But watching women like her succeed in a place where they initially could barely communicate is what pulled me off the couch and out into this incredible world I get to call home for a little while.
As we continue to meet people from around the world, it’s the greatest joy to think of the network we’re building of friends in different places. To get to duck into and out of their adventures, and to partake in their cultures and share a bit of ours, gives me so much to look forward to when we see each other again.
[The photo you see above was taken at my friend’s final event as owner of Artbar Tokyo, the amazing business she began during her time in Tokyo.]