Being an expat is hard sometimes. One of the hardest things aside from doctor’s visits and tax forms are friendships. Meeting people isn’t hard but forging a long-lasting bond can be. I have a decent amount of friends of very different social circles and on a regular basis, I don’t feel alone.
But then there these days when I miss seeing familiar faces, hanging out with someone I know for more than just a couple of months or a year. I miss my best friends from middle school, who know the real me. They know me as more than just the German girl, the grad student, or that girl who doesn’t eat meat. My friends from back then know my puberty struggles, know my childhood crushes, and know exactly where and how I grew up.
I know and I value the opportunity to invent yourself over and over again when you’re meeting new people. It’s a great chance for a fresh start and I love that. I formed relationships with so many different people that I would not have met had I stayed within my warm, cozy comfort zone at home. I have met musicians, artists, punks, hippies, hipsters, scientists, dog-lovers, cat people …
However, I love my childhood friends (at least a few of them) and I haven’t changed my life so radically, that I am in desperate need of a re-invention of myself. So sometimes, after a few beers or after a whole day of hanging out with friends I have known for less than a year, I get exhausted. Exhausted, because I still have to prove myself, because I still have to explain myself, and because somethings to my character are still surprising. I get exhausted because I still have to read the room, make the right jokes at the right time, and laugh the right amount at my friends’ jokes.
These are the times, I go home early and I feel alone and homesick and I miss my best friend, who has been there with me through my first crush, my first drunk party, my first hangover, my first serious grief, and all of my terrible haircuts. Hanging out with these friends is so effortless. You don’t have to explain yourself anymore, you don’t have to keep up an impression anymore. You can read them and they can read you.
All of this makes me wonder whether adults are still capable of forming these intense and indestructible bonds that we forged with our friends when we were younger. Can we still achieve the same levels of friendships with people we meet in our mid-twenties? Or will these friendships forever be fundamentally different? That thought scares me a little. I understand that our lives change and our relationships and what we need in relationships also changes. But it makes me sad to imagine, that we will never start such intense friendships ever again.