…And it’s so hard to change, can’t seem to settle down.
There is a certain skill set you develop when moving around a lot. You figure out how to explore an area quickly and dig into social groups with equal speed; knowing you have only a limited time to form friendships and that you have to start early. You become adept at sussing out potential activities online way before the Departure Date, your first few weeks of your new life will be sketched out comfortably in advance. The pressure of time is always there, you know how to work with that.
In the summer of 2009 I got a visa stuck in my passport which granted me permission to spend a fixed period of time in the USA. After 12 months I returned to Scotland. Once my final academic year ended I went to Switzerland for another full 12 months. After Switzerland I came back to the UK, dividing the allotted 12 months between Fife, London & Edinburgh. Once those ~12 months are up I’m moving back to the States.
In total, during the last 5 years I will have moved across international borders 5 times. At 12 month intervals.
Some people cope with regular geographical upheaval by acknowledging they’re only there for a temporary period and adjusting their social circles/hobbies accordingly. I find that approach hard. In part because of the frequency I’ve moved: I would otherwise have had an awful 5 years of being completely transient. Also because I need to feel like I belong to a place if I want to be happy there. The process of making new friends and exploring is what helps me overcome homesickness and all the upheaval. I want to hold on to the friendships I’ve formed in the places I’ve lived.
Then this week it hit me like a mallet: I want to belong to all these places…but they simply move on without me when I’m not there. If I’m away from a country for 1 year the social circles alter, the gossip evolves, the shared history grows – I miss out on all of that. When I’ve returned to Edinburgh on each occasion I’ve been forced to reinvent my social circles because of the difficulties I have with catching up and re-integrating. It is upsetting to confront that reality, even though I come across it so often.
When I go back to the USA I won’t be able to pick up my “Philadelphia” life where I left off in September 2010, no matter how much I want to. Which makes me wonder if I’ve been (foolishly) wanting to return to something that no longer exists all of those intervening years.
It seems as if I want to settle down in some place for 5 years or longer, just for a bit of stability.
…But what if I can’t?
What if the first 12 months in the USA pass and I start to grow restless? What if stability drains all the colour from my life?
Perhaps the thrill and adventure of switching countries all the time is what I need to be happy. I have very little experience of stability in my independent adult life, perhaps I’ve grown up learning how to operate without it.
There is really only way for me to find out…