An acquaintance of mine is moving away. I learned a few days ago and I still can't shake the feeling of sadness. What I've come to realize is that although she is not someone that I know very well, she is someone that I would like to know better. She is someone that I would have liked to call my friend.
Usually, I'm on the other side of The Moving Conversation. I'm the one saying, "Yes, I'm (we're) moving to such-and-such-place." I've had 21 addresses in 10 different cities in 34 years. I've got the moving thing down. I'm also really, really, really tired of moving. I don't want to move again for a very long time. Not because this place, or any other place, for that matter, is perfect. That's one side effect of all the moving: you learn that every place has its own special-(and not so special-)ness to offer. Rather, I'd just like to stop uprooting my life. I would like - literally and figuratively - to see some trees grow around here.
Another side effect of all that moving, is that my friendships lack the depth and time that produces a sort of life experience diversity. It works like this: you move to a new place, you meet people who are in a similar situation: maybe they are in college, maybe they are single and working 60 hour weeks, maybe they also have 4 year olds. Whatever the case, their current life experiences are a lot like yours. And then 3 years go by, and you move again, leaving behind those friends and finding new ones, once again, in the same situation as yourself. And because you don't stay in one place for any length of time, you find you are continuously surrounded by a lot of people who are going through the same things. Your college roommate may have taken a very different path in life, but because you moved far away and contact is limited, or mostly superficial ( as long distance relationships have a tendency to become), you find yourself lacking depth and diversity in your relationships with your immediate circle of friends. Or at least, such is my situation. I'm sure it's further exaggerated by NOT having a job outside the home and NOT living near any immediate family.
So my acquaintance, who I wish I could call my friend, is very unlike me in the most obvious ways. She doesn't have children. She's probably 15 years older than me. She has a paying in job in a field that has nothing to do with children OR architecture. She does something I have never - and probably never will do - she gets collagen injections! And yet, I think she's fascinating and rather upfront in an endearing kind of way and whiny in a funny way and I wish that we were friends.
There's a lot to be said for being friends with people who are similarly situated in their life experience. You don't need to spend a lot of time developing a shorthand for communication, because you're already going through the same things at the same time. It's easier to offer help and receive help when your experiences and expectations match. It's comforting to know you are not alone, it's reassuring to have the support of others, and it's empowering to have a collective vision. Similarly situated friends can be wonderful. It still fills my eyes with tears to think of my group of childless American women friends in Munich who saved my sanity as I struggled through a year and a half of culture shock.
But now, 6 years later, thinking about them also fills my heart with longing for intimate friendships with people who are different: friends who don't have kids, friends who don't share my concerns about injecting chemicals under their skin, friends who go on vacations that aren't dictated by visiting families. I think all these characteristics are things that emerge or change slowly with time and create deeper relationships. For example, I think about the changes my Munich friends have gone through after meeting up to sip a Radler in the biergarten was no longer an option. I feel disappointed that I wasn't there when they became mothers, or found better jobs, or left a spouse. I often wonder, as I think about this group of friends, would they still be intimate friends, or would life have carried us in other directions regardless of moving? Would we still have a relationship? Would the relationship actually feel deeper if I had been there when they were going through these changes? Whatever the case, I wish that I had the option to have them more in my life than thousands-of-miles-away permits.
The cool thing about being around people who are at a different point in their life, or who simply have had different experiences, is that it gives me perspective. I feel more defined and clear about the choices I've made and things I'm doing. Which is not to say, "I'm right, you're wrong." Rather, it's more like a realization of, "Hey, that's right! It did really sucked when I lived alone and couldn't get a jar open. And by the way, it also sucks when your kid breaks a jar of tomato sauce and gets it all over the white kitchen cabinets." The grass isn't always greener, you know. Sometimes, being at home, or maybe even just being a mother, I find it really hard to keep perspective. The other day, an old friend, going through a rough patch, called needing support. I was so glad. So glad to try to be helpful to someone with such a different life. And glad to think about something other than my kids and our school fundraisers and our house projects. The call was eye-opening. I miss this - I miss having other people - and I have to admit to myself that I really need them.
I believe strongly that friendships ebb and flow, regardless of place. Also, if you move enough, sooner or later, you start bumping into the same people all over again. That, in and of itself, can be an awesome experience.
But really, now, I'd just like me and everyone near me to stay put for awhile so that I can grow these relationships and friendships. Fewer props, more depth. And hopefully, phone calls like the other day won't be so far between.