Growing up

I’ve lived in many places since I was very young and had to learn not to get attached to places. Not everyone can say they’ve lived in eight different places, three states, and two countries in the span of 25 years (I moved for the first time when I was 11).

I remember when I was in college my friends and I shared a recurring dream: To be in the city where we studied, but with friends from the city we came from. More than once I’ve woken up after exploring the city with my high school friends.

A place only becomes important in our lives because of the people who are there, the connections we make and the memories we create.

With time the dreams diminished, the number of friends also, as well as the increase in responsibilities made dreaming something even rarer. The changes continued. I finished college and a few months later I was in another state, I went to China for a year and when I came back my parents had moved to another city. Despite the technology it was challenging to keep in touch, each one went on with their life and long-distance friendship is for a few.

I rarely had the chance to see the friends I made, or to go back to one of the cities I had lived in. The memories I have of where I lived until I was 14 are like a puzzle with many pieces missing. The friendships I made during this period were lost, or they are cousins, and in this case, blood ties kept us in touch.

Living in China for six years I had the opportunity for the first time to experience the other side of the coin. I’ve seen friends who were very close go back to their home countries and disappear into social media profiles. I cried at their goodbyes and I still rejoice to see their achievements, but our connection was lost.

I believe that if today I went back to any of the cities I’ve lived in, there would be nostalgia and disappointment. The place is there, a little different, but still the same. I changed, the people who made that place so special also changed and their lives took completely different courses. Some I still admire from a distance through social media, others I don’t even know how to find them.

Of course I came back to visit some cities, on other occasions I had friends come to visit me. Some it was as if we had seen it last week and our friendship remained the same despite the distance, others it was as if two strangers were meeting for the first time and the meeting was a bitter memory of a time that will not return.

After 5 years I’m finally back in Brazil, I knew I needed to prepare myself to start over. New city, new job, new friendships, new memories to create. I understand anyone who can’t imagine leaving a place they’re used to, or have lived in for many years, even though I’ve done it a few times it’s always different. It’s never been easy and it’s impossible to be prepared for what’s to come.

When I moved to Guiyang, I was sure I wouldn’t suffer from culture shock, after all I had already lived in China for a year before. Today it makes me laugh just remembering how much I regret not having arrived better prepared, or trying to understand more about the difference between the north and south of the country. I felt like I was getting to know the country and its culture for the first time. I confess that I thought about giving up and considered living in another city. After a few years, I already felt like a guide for foreigners. Just as they helped me when I arrived, I tried my best to ease the anguish of the new expatriates.

Since I returned to Brazil I have lived something, at least, interesting. Unsurprisingly, my parents aren’t living in the same city they were when I left. I still haven’t had the opportunity to see my family again (with the exception of my godmother who, in a way, is my family), but I’ve found friends I haven’t seen for a long time.

I don’t know if maturity is responsible for the desire to value true friendships or if we lose patience in pleasing others over time. In a few months back I had the chance to meet friends like those who will be for life, meeting them despite the tight hugs it was as if nothing had changed. To be fair, now we have a job, responsibilities, and families and when we met we were just people full of dreams.

The change in our bank account (or not), our employment status, and our family situation have not altered the affection and respect we have for each other. It did not create barriers or distrust so that personal pain would not be shared. It was amazing to realize that despite so many years my friends were still the same, people I could talk to openly, and that they felt equally comfortable sharing a little of their lives too.

Over time I learned to better manage distance, and to keep close even to those I haven’t seen for years. People I talk to weekly and I share more of my life than my neighbors (I still don’t know any of my neighbors) even if an ocean separates us. People I call brother and sister, for having a relationship as such.

I can’t deny that I love exploring the world and can’t wait to meet the brothers and sisters I made for a lifetime. I know I’m going to meet people, and create new moments, but knowing that I have friends who will be with me (despite the distance) gives me the strength to continue and the motivation to be able to see them again soon.

Published by Tassia Kespers

Escritora, professora, tradutora, revisora, mãe e exploradora nas horas vagas.

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