Monday, September 14, 2009


Earlier this year I learned the unhappy news that two of my oldest friends had split up.  It rocked my world to its foundations: not only was I deeply concerned for each of them, and for their young children; I felt a huge sense of dislocation and loss for myself.
These guys had got together in their first few weeks at university - shortly before I even met them - and, despite a few ructions and ruptures here and there in the early days, had essentially been a couple ever since.  It never seemed exactly an 'ideal' relationship: there was always a lot of 'creative tension' between them that could be uncomfortable for others to be around; but, despite this constant scratchiness, the relationship worked.  Other friends married and divorced, and remarried - sometimes within a few short years.  But these guys just went on and on.  They'd always been together (25 years - the whole of my adult life!).  And I thought they always would be.  They had been one of the few enduringly stable elements of my life. And now - though I hope I can continue to be friends with each of them separately - that bedrock of stability is shattered.  It is acutely disorienting.  (Yes, yes, unimaginably worse for them, of course.  Quite bad enough for me.)
And now.... I learn that my oldest friend in China is going to quit.  She's put in nearly twice the time that I have here (maybe there's something in that rule of 7-year cycles?), and it's fried her mind rather.  She needs a change of scene, some new challenges.  I have a feeling she'll be back in two or three years, but.... well, her decision to leave is rather abrupt, and very unsettling for me.  I had thought she would always be here.  And she has been another of my rocks - one of the few consistently reliable sources of sympathy and comfort, consolation and advice I've found out here.  I never suspected just how much I'd miss her until I discovered she was going to leave in a few weeks.


JES said...

Ah. Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes...

I always thought of myself as a liberal, free-thinker, etc. -- someone always open to new experiences and so on. It took The Missus to point out to me, convincingly, how rock-bottom conservative I am when it comes to "my little world." I don't like it when new people get injected into everyday life and, once I recognize that these strangers are actually friends, I don't like it when they leave, or overturn their domestic situation, or (yes) bring new people into The Inner Circle (these would be the same new people who themselves will become friends within a few months' time).

I've been fortunate that few of my friends and family have died. Unhappily, I'm approaching an age when I'm pretty sure my luck will soon run out in that respect. Talk about changes.

Sorry to hear about the upheavals, especially coming as they do on the heels of your own... let's say uncertainties of the last few months.

Froog said...

You'd think living in a place like this would toughen you up a bit. The physical environment (to say nothing of the legal environment - what are those latest visa/tax/employment rules again?) is in constant flux. And most of the foreigners you meet here are only going to be around for 2 to 3 years. Friendships here are not, I hope, more 'provisional'; but there is an awareness that they're likely to be timebound.

But then you hit a spell where there are more leaving parties than birthday parties, and it does all get a bit depressing.