“My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations.”
― John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
We are into a new year and I wonder what is on the horizon for me in 2016. For the last few months I have been pondering my life. But I have also been thinking about people and how they behave. As humans being we are somehow inextricably caught up with each other whether we want to be or not. Since everything is connected in some way, (and I cannot begin to explain the physics of anything), somehow everything we think, say, and do spirals out and impacts upon every other thing. In a way it’s a sad thought because it means that I am tethered to a reality that I may not be able to escape unscathed.
I’ve been thinking of myself — how much I might matter to people. Of course, I know I’m loved by my family, by my very good ride or die friends. But I’m thinking about the people who cross our daily lives — those we casually say “meet my friend __________” and what that really means. In my experience, it’s just a phrase because friendship bears more evidence. Friendship extends beyond ourselves and connects us with others of us. I think of these kinds of questions because I am so far away from where I was born and grew up. When you are an expatriate, you seek to find a place among your new community (your host country), but also, among those with whom you share the expatriate experience. You seek to find camaraderie and a kind of homeplace. I have found it difficult to do so.
“We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibers connect us with our fellow men; and among those fibers, as sympathetic threads, our actions run as causes, and they come back to us as effects.” ― Herman Melville
I have witnessed the bad behavior of people I had assumed had more maturity, just by virtue of the fact that they put on their big kid draws and left home to experience new adventures. Maybe that was my first mistake. Never should I forget that key axiom, that first important point: you take yourself with you wherever you go. Or, better yet, “wherever you go, there you are!” I have seen people behave like school kids, fall away from others because they disagreed on how something should be done. I have seen people who leave their countries to a new one, only to waste time and energy badmouthing things back there as well as in the new place. Sheesh. I know, I know, we are human beings but still….
I had figured (incorrectly) that people who take a leap up and out of familiarity would behave more respectfully. Mama always taught me how to behave when I visited someone else’s home. Never would I go to someone’s house and complain about what I couldn’t do, or couldn’t get. That would just be plain rude. And yet, I have heard so many gripes and complaints about how things aren’t, till I want to scream, “why did you come here?” But I don’t. I just pull in a little more and avoid more interactions. This has the effect of making me miss those loved ones I left behind, even as I am so happy to be gone. It emphasizes my sense of loneliness and makes me long for real community, and wonder how I will be able to create it. For good communities, strong communities may be made up of diverse people — yes. But any community I want to be a part of must include the component of personal responsibility and a willingness to grow, compromise and change. I would scarcely associate with some of these ill-mannered people back home. Most could never be my friends because there is no heart, no spirit, no vision that would connect us there at the level of our humanity. And yet, desperation to connect makes me endeavor to cross all that in the name of bonding. But bad behavior, small-mindedness, gossipy busybody activities, even downright meanness are not the sorts of things I would ever cross the line to connect with back home, so definitely not here.
In the meantime, I go on saying hello here, and hi there because I am naturally friendly and like to connect and know people. I smile and harbor no ill-will toward any. We are all damaged in big and small ways and I do my best to move from a space of compassion.
It’s just difficult some days.