Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stressful Friendships

A foreign service lifestyle is demanding and stressful. Many of us are moving to places we've never been too for, and in some cases, places we've never heard of before.

We are leaving behind our family, friends and much that is familiar to us.

It seems to me one of the few ways to remain sane (assuming we had some semblance of sanity before arriving - a large assumption in some cases, I suppose) is to make friends with the people at post, American or native.

If only it were that easy. Foreign service life is never that easy. There is always a curveball in store.

On Thursday morning, one of the families that we had become very close to moved back to the States.

The end of their tour will not mark the end of our friendship, but it highlights one of the frustrations of this lifestyle. During a short six-week period, we made new friends only to watch them leave.

I'm not trying to be overly dramatic about this. They weren't our only friends here, and they might not even have been our closest friends. But they are good friends to us, and having to say "See ya in a long later," after such a short period of getting to know each other hardly seems fair. It is enough to make you wonder what the point is sometimes. Should we only attempt friendships with those who arrive about the same time we did because we both will be here for a while. No time wasted in short acquaintances.

Of course not. Actually, I think that just goes to show how awesome this family was. When we arrived, they could have said, "Welcome, good luck, we're leaving in six weeks." They could have said even less than that.

But not only did they choose a different, more sociable route; they allowed themselves to make a connection with us. These are the type of people you want to make friends with.

I don't know when our paths will cross again. Probably not for a couple of years. Possibly longer. But I will miss them and look forward to a reunion. And this after just six weeks of knowing each other.


  1. Awww, David. I'm so sorry. That has to be hard.

  2. David,
    Some of our most precious and lasting FS friendships were made during our first four month stint at the Oakwood in Falls Church. And in turn, we forged an unbreakable bond with the family living next door to us in Belgrade for a year and a half. I often joke about bidding as tandem families in the future… and who knows? Serena and I focus on forging collections with like minded individuals regardless of time. Annoying, yes… but the FS is a very small place. Your paths will cross again.
    The thing to watch out for is developing relationships with people you have nothing in common with just because you have the time. Now that, in my book, is more stressful than saying goodbye.

  3. As you know, Vinnie and I grew up in this sort of environment, with our dad being in the Navy. At the time it seems like another loss of living a "normal life". Move somewhere for two years, meet people, and then BAM... someone moves. As a kid, this was very hard.
    But now, looking back at that life... isn't that what was also so great? Meeting all sorts of people from all walks of life. I wouldn't have traded those short-lived relationships for other hubbub barely-know-your-name-neighbors I now have. And now as a gal in my mid-twenties I have friends who live all over the world. We don't get to grab lunch or talk as often as we'd like, but with the wonderful world of social networking keeping in touch is ten times easier. I still talk to my friends in Alaska, Korea, and even my old babysitter in Italy.
    In the long run you learn to embrace the moments and the memories, even after you/Nat retire and do come back to the "normal life". Now I am much more appreciative of the friendships and family members I do have and try not to take anyone for granted.

    Hang in there. It won't ever be easy but the blessings far outweigh the tragedies.

    Just some words of encouragement!
    Cousin Marie in TN

  4. This is one of the hardest things for me to deal with in the FS... BUT, it's also one of my favorite.

    Because it's NEVER goodbye, it's always, "until we meet again."