Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Friends around the world

The other morning when Zoe and I had breakfast as usual, her sitting on the kitchen counter and me standing within reach of my espresso machine she got a bit sad. "Milly", she just said and I knew she was missing her new friend in Paris. Yeah, Emily is in Paris, I said and tried to comfort her. "Far away, Milly far away", Zoe said and I said yes, Zoe you have friends around the world. She then went into naming the long list of her friends, which surprised me not only because it included grandma and my aunt who often looks after her when we are in Copenhagen, but because it was extensive and clear and included people from very different realms or her life. I got tears in my eyes thinking about what I'm doing to my daughter providing her with friends around the world but at the same time keeping her from seeing them regularly.

Today my eyes teared up again when I got an email from a dear friend in the US who we will be staying with for our upcoming trip. Because I got friends around the world too and I tend to forget during the dark and biting cold snowy days in Stockholm where I feel alone in a country I never wanted to live in and in a city where they speak a silly language I'm not good at. My friend reminded me that I am not alone at all. It is a side effect of the semi-nomadic lifestyle I have had since I moved to the US to go to college almost two decades ago. Since then I have not stayed in one country for more than three to four years at a time, and although I have been back and forth, I have not been going back the same place (I have lived in Florida and north and southern California almost equally). But more importantly, a research career like mine fosters friendships across distance, through collaboration and mutual intense conference experiences; some of my closest friends I have never lived in the same country as. The benefit is that I am always welcome places around the world (and I do take advantage of that, vice versa, my friends are *always* welcome at my place) but the downside is that I can't just see them and calling is complicated due to different timezones. Besides, seeing someone is completely different from calling. It means that I sometimes forget that I am valued and loved by these friends who seem so remote. So occasionally I need a reminder.

I also needed a reminder to do something I should have done long time ago: Go to Copenhagen without Zoe *only* to see my friends. Despite all the moving around my three best friends are still in Copenhagen, they simply never left. They have put up with my sporadic calling and demanding social schedule when I am finally there ("I can see you Wednesday between 5pm and 7pm") for 10 plus years. And magically they stuck. I owe them big for that because they are still the girlfriends I turn to when I have a broken heart, when I'm frustrated about work and when I argue with my parents. They are also the first ones I told that I was pregnant with Zoe and they are the first ones to know good news in terms of jobs and big moves. I hope they see me a bit the same way but I also know they have closer friends themselves because distance is complicated. Which is why I feel stupid not having done this before. So in less than two weeks I'll be on a train to Copenhagen without Zoe and I'm already planning each hour of friendship time.

1 comment:

  1. I, too, have friends around the world, and in some cases very close friends whom I only rarely get to interact with owing to time zones, schedules etc. You're absolutely right that once in a while you need to take some focused time to be with the people who give you energy & make you feel a part of the world. True friends like that can pick up right where you left off, whether it's been ten days or ten years.

    Really glad you are going to take this little trip.