Is it worth it/lucky us/culture of obligation

…to be part of a relationship, knowing that it has no future, knowing that at the end of the day, it’ll come to an end. Ending not because of ‘natural causes’, because of the natural devolution of your relationship, rather because there’s a deadline.

The issue of traveling, of losing the valuable ability to pursue and maintain long-term personal relationships as it takes a back burner to career and academic pursuits have been prevalent in my life (as I’ve constantly reiterated to the point of redundancy). A high ranking official in which I had the opportunity to speak with told me that I didn’t have to chose between career and ‘life’. Maybe he didn’t, but did his partner? Although it is the 21st century, arguably women are still expected to, more than men, to sacrifice their career pursuits to facilitate the building and maintenance of ‘life’ when in a (heterosexual) partnership. So in a relationship in which both partners wish to strike a balance between career and ‘life’, finding the golden mean isn’t just with oneself anymore, but you must also take into account the other person.

I spoke to a friend I met when I was in DC. He has been in China since the beginning of the spring semester and will be until Christmas where he’ll then fly out to London for the holidays with his family and then return to DC afterward to complete his law degree. I am, of course, in Brussels to pad up my resume at a rather expensive cost with no assurance that what I am doing now will actually accrue to some sort of advantage when looking for an actual job. The comment ‘lucky us‘ came up in our conversation. I  couldn’t decide whether to take this comment earnestly or sarcastically; to be honest, both sentiments arose although the former came out more as an obligation. Within the last couple years, I have gone to 3 different continents, was never situated in one place for more than a semester and as a result, my personal life arguably suffered. Not only have I not had the opportunity to pursue or even consider a long term relationship (my pick up line would include: by the way, I’m leaving x amount of months), but I have also drifted further away from my closest friends. Although we remain close, I have honestly lost some and yes, I have gained some; however, making a close friend because you’re in the same program but knowing you’ll most likely never see each other again is completely different than having someone you grew up with, who knows your past, the shit before your reformation. However, the latter party is now at a loss because they cannot relate to the experiences you are having abroad. This is no one’s fault, it’s just kind of sad. I told this friend that, and he agrees with me on how lucky we have been to have had the opportunities we’ve had, but it would be nice to be in one place for a while. Then I told him that from a selfish point of view, it was kind of nice to know that I wasn’t alone on this boat. It’s not just the fact that I’ve left home, but the succession of programs in such a short period of time is a contributor. Even those I met in the first and/or second program did not necessarily cram abroad programs so close to one another and thus, perhaps cannot relate to my exhaustion. There is a significant difference between traveling for pleasure and traveling to work/volunteer, to go with some purpose and for a prolonged period of time. The latter requires one to adopt to a new culture, to be social and meet new people, establish a new circle of friends, etc. and this is exhausting especially when you have to keep changing places. Don’t tell me that traveling for kicks is the same as this process; it’s not.

I’m curious as to why I so easily do things that don’t necessarily bode well over me but in the long run, has potentially positive consequences for me. Is the collection of obligatory experiences and the sentiments that arise with it worth it? I’m taking French classes right now. I can absolutely say that I have little interest in going there every Monday and Wednesday evening, especially in conjunction with my current work demands, job application preparations, attempts to maintain a relationship with a man who has the completely opposite work schedule as I do, yet there I am, every Monday and Wednesday. I’ve skipped once and felt pretty guilty about it…though a few episodes of the West Wing coupled with a cup of hot chocolate soothed these anxieties. But even though I express my fatigue and stress and thus don’t really feel like attending French classes, I know in the end that I will go. I know it. Part of this attitude was conditioned by how my parents raised me and to be honest, it’s not a bad thing. I’m just worried that if I continue with this without a balance of personal indulgence that the positive impact these experiences undoubtedly have or will have in the future will be overshadowed by the bitterness of ‘not living’.

However, when reflecting on this lifestyle attitude, I know it has a lot of credibility. When looking at my current situation in which I will be leaving Brussels in less than 2 months, and subsequently leaving my longest (sad..) relationship in the last few years, it probably would’ve been easier on me if I hadn’t disregarded what I knew would be a sad and shit situation in the end. Yet the happiness that fills me every time I see this person, the comfort and simple contentment in which I find when encased in a blanket cocoon with my personal heater, makes it ultimately worth it. I’m living in spurts and it sucks, but perhaps it’s better than not having ‘life’ at all.

Before any opposing sentiments are expressed over the above statements, let’s just take into account whether you, my friend, are living a similar life style as I am, and if not, whether you really can put yourself in my shoes. Things aren’t so clean cut.

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2 thoughts on “Is it worth it/lucky us/culture of obligation

  1. oh my dearie. good thing the close friends, though they may not fully understand your situation, don’t care that they don’t and still love you 🙂
    likely, in the long run, these abroad experiences will become valuable to you. though uncertain as to their positive-ness, i can’t see that it would have a negative effect, in any case. you don’t have any more abroad things in mind after this though (?), so you can finally settle back into one place, at home… or 3 hours from home lol.

  2. Hey….
    Its so nice of you to share your thoughts and feelings on this subject, and while at times you are defensive in your words, guarding the precious little that you have to keep you sane, it’s not all that bad at all… I can relate to your sentimental (or lack thereof) life, as I too have lived in 3-4 different cultures in the last 3 years (though only 2 continents), with 4 different languages being used… More so, this was not just an existential experience of these cultures, it was a full immersion into daily life and existence, and while 1 of them is native to me, each time reintegrating home was perhaps the hardest of all to achieve.
    One thing that helped me to bridge the gap was to realize that I am in fact “living” as you equate your experience abroad to ‘not living’ for the attainment of a potential “castles in the sky” benefit… Perhaps phrasing the reason-d’etre of choosing to go abroad for some unknown potential benefit is in fact the Achilles heel to your predicament. In my personal experience, and I assume that you are in fact a Third Culture Kid, wiki it, our kind of mentality is in constant search for self, self-awareness and self-understanding. I am sure you have noticed that no matter where you go to live, similar type of people begin to surround you and perhaps sometimes you can even draw direct parallels between certain people that you befriended from country a to your current friends in country c. Furthermore, I’m sure you’ve internalized the fact that no matter where you go you cannot outrun yourself, and while your ability to adapt in cultures and people is getting more atoned, you feel lonelier than ever the more people you meet. It’s the catch-22 of all things, you meet so many, you dive in passionately to know them, while knowing that in 6 months to a year they will become a friendly memory. Don’t fear, some of those who’m you connect with will stay with you for the rest of your life, but not all. It is important though to give your full self to everyone you choose, not sexually, but morally and emotionally, as you never know which one’s will stick around and which will frail away. It may seem at times that some have fallen off your wagon of friends, to hit you right back and surprise you that in fact they have been with you all along when you reconnect again, making you feel as if you didn’t miss a heartbeat. Life is complicated, but first and foremost you have to internalize your value for yourself, not just with bravado, hubris, and ego, but truly know what you stand for, what is your worth, and knowing that you are always ready to grow, adapt, and change your principles on a daily basis, because it is only then, that you truly grow as an individual and see value in self. Once I was able to build a solid foundation as to whom am I, my life, my travels, and my experiences began to unfold to me as lessons in life of which I was able to maintain concurrent stocktaking as events were occurring live before me. More so, I was able to maintain a solid foundation at “home base” – which of course included those in my family and closest of friends. Do not lament those who seemed to have left your presence or soon will, instead know that they in fact might one day surprise you when you reconnect again without a lost minute.

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