Got Bumped

Well, life in China is finally catching up with me. Most days it’s easy to forget that there is an entire collection of lives being lived by people very dear to me in a country that I still call “home” though it isn’t in any functional sense.

That I’m not there living it with them was driven into me the other day when I was talking to my best friend Cory and he informed me I had been bumped from ‘bestman’ to “guy#somethingontheright” (I don’t know the exact location) in his upcoming wedding.

His reasoning behind the bump is sound, and I don’t fault him at all for making it. I’m simply not there to help out with the wedding planning, or any of the other things a bestman traditionally does. And as much as we’ve been friends longer than we haven’t, that stuff is important. Hell, I’ve not even met his wife-to-be as he met her after I left Welland for B.C. in August 2004 (the last time I saw any of my friends or family in my hometown – not including Sarah and Vanessa who were wonderful enough to come visit me here last spring and summer respectively).

I’m a bit bummed about getting bumped, not because I think it hurts my friendship with my friend, but because it shows me directly the affect my being away has caused on my relationships with people that are still very important to me. It’s been a while since I was homesick, but lately it’s been a growing feeling. I look at the last 10 years of my life and I’ve lived away from my friends and family for a total of about three and a half years (BC twice, backpacking and now China).

It’s a fight to stay in touch with everyone, and with most family members it’s not been too hard. My mom and dad usually e-mail me once every couple of weeks or so and let me know what’s going on and I’m in semi-regular contact with my aunt as well, which is nice. But my big failure is my sister.. I rarely hear from her at all – and if I do, it’s usually not more than a sentence-long, very functional e-mail. I’m not sure why it is, I’ve tried repeatedly to keep in touch with her, but she just has “no time” to maintain it.

It all just furthers my feelings that however much in my mind living abroad doesn’t affect my relationships with those back home, in everyone elses it does. For me they are a base I can always return to and that gives me the strength and energy to somewhat fearlessly live in or visit foreign places, but for them it’s a quite natural occurance of out of sight, and out of mind.

I guess this all sounds a bit whingy, and I don’t mean it to be such. If anything, all of this is making me re-evaluate life abroad. The problem is: there’s nothing for me back home. I mean, friends and family are great and important (some would say the most important)… but back home I’ll just be working some crap job, living for the moments I have off to go watch the game with my buddy or go out to a bar with friends – and of course being able to attend the family functions a handful of times a year. As much as I miss those things, really miss those things, they’re simply not enough to base a life around. I need challenges, goals and change.

So it is now my goal to see how I can meld these two things together. How I can live close to my friends and family, but still live the life I want to live. I often read Steve Pavlina’s rather insightful blog, and a recent post talked about how we often look at our careers (and in turn our lives) from an outside-in perspective. Trying to weigh the avaiable options and choosing the best (or good enough) one for us. He wrote this often leaves people frustrated or confused, as there are simply too many choices, and what do we “really” know about any of them. What he then outlined was that it’s better to take an inside-out approach, whereby you look at who you are, the things that are important to you and the qualities you value in yourself – then apply these to a job that would suit them. I think this system may also be the solution to all that I stated above. We’ll see. I’m still working on his advice for waking up right when my alarm goes off, and nixing my caffeine addiction. Woke up late and had two cups of coffee today.

5 Responses

  1. My mom was in a bad auto accident in February, breaking her sternum and more ribs than not. It was at the instant that I read the email from my dad that I felt the yawning, cavernous distance. Thank goodness for email and cheap phone rates from HK to the US, and she was in very good hands at the hospital she’s worked at for the past 25 years, but that hole in the stomach feeling was very real.

    Granted, I’ve been away from “home” for the last 12 years, but this was the point at which it REALLY sunk in.

    And then, of course, my Chinese friends wonder why I didn’t go home to “take care of” her. And do what? Give her her medications? Watch her as she slept under the influence of her pain-killers? Give her a sponge bath? Yet, I totally understand their point of view and concern.

    You do have to know what you’re doing and why, even if it doesn’t make sense to anyone else.

  2. Hey, thanks for the story and good advice. It’s appreciated. Sometimes it’s hard maintaining what you think is right, when you’re not sure and everyone else is looking at you like you’re a little crazy. 🙂 Good to know that if I’m crazy, at least I’m not alone.

  3. Hey Ryan!

    Funny that I just read this post and I can’t tell you how MUCH I relate to it (living here in New Zealand, away from my family in the US). It’s hard, because sometimes it is very lonley being in a place, that even though you want to be here, you feel surrounded by people that don’t really “know” you (maybe because they’ve only known you for a brief amount of time, or because they aren’t family, so it’s easy to think that maybe they don’t have as vested an interest in you). A lot of times, I live my daily life day to day and don’t even realize I am in a different place – living just a few hours away from my family might feel the same as living halfway around the world. But then, you get sick or just feel down, and you feel like you are 3 times farther away than you actually are- because you can’t just go home and get cheered up, or hang out with your friends for a night and have a good time – it can really get you homesick, and it usually happens when you feel like you need those people the most!

    Often times, I get the “I’m so jealous of what you’re doing” or “I wish I could do what you’re doing” – and it frustrates me so much because anyone COULD be doing what we are doing – you just need to get out of your comfort zone, and unfortunately, a big part of that is usually leaving your friends and family behind – at least for a while.

    I’m with you on the mentality that, to me, I feel like my relationships (with friends and family) are at somewhat of a standstill – you almost forget that other people’s lives change and without you there, you become a bit forgotten sometimes. I’ve had a few incidents where something serious happened at home and I just wasn’t told right away, simply because I wasn’t physically there. That sucks. It sucks to think that your physical presence is necessary to matter to some people. I’ve had friends that I’ve fallen out of touch with – and, like you, I’ve tried SO hard to keep in touch – lengthy personalized emails, lots of phone calls at my expense – but for some people, that just isn’t enough. Again, that sucks…

    Unlike you, I have had the experience now of going home after some time (as far as I know, you have been away continuously now) – I returned home last year after a year and a half away and I have to tell you – it was weird. It was weird because, you’re this person that has had all of these incredible, unexplainable experiences – and yet, it’s easy to forget that, even though sometimes mundane, your friends and family have also had experiences – their lives go on and you were’t there to experience it all. It was a bit of an adjustment for me, and I’m sad to say that I’ve distanced myself from quite a few friends that chose not to make the effort to stay in touch – but I can also tell you, that you get amazingly surprised in a wonderful way by those that do choose to make the effort.

    I don’t want to whine on about how “difficult” life is this way – but it does get you down, as I think you’re feeling, to think that choosing to do exciting things for yourself and broaden your horizons can have drawbacks. I don’t regret living my life this way, but it isn’t always easy – it isn’t the vacation that everyone else seems to think it is sometimes.

    You know, I met a guy the other day and he was just so incredibly amazed that I’m living here, without my family – that I picked up and moved to another country with no roots or attachments and my answer to him seemed to be, “Why not?” Why not challenge myself or do something out of the ordinary – but this guy totally couldn’t relate (he was Samoan, and Samoans are traditionally a very tight knit group family-wise). But it made me think…maybe we don’t give ourselves enough credit (or maybe you do, I dunno, but just for the sake of argument) – maybe it is this courageous and challenging thing to do; or maybe it’s just stupid and a phase and we eventually grow out of it – I don’t know.

    I don’t mean to drone on about it, I just really wanted to express how moved I was by this post of yours – it’s good to know that I’m not the only one that feels like this sometimes. Sorry you don’t get to be best man =(


  4. The way I see it is, that the grass is always greener. And it’s all about choice. Regardless of what path you choose, you’ll always be wondering about the other. I think of you over in China and get jealous, and then i realize if I was there I would be wondering what it was like to have a wide open career (no offense intended) and a house. Sometimes I think about what it would be like to be single and have all my time to myself or my own schedule. And then I realize I was there for quite sometime, and had always wondered what it would be like to be married. So I personally don’t hold your decision against you, I don’t think you should be too caught up about it, cause odds are you’ll just be here wondering what it would be like to travel the world (as you did when you were here)

    your best friend in perpetuity


  5. Hey Cory & Vanessa, thanks for the good comments.

    Cory, I completely agree that it’s somewhat a “grass is greener” situation. I agree that we, as a species, tend to wonder or want what we don’t have. For me living in China isn’t just about experiencing a new culture, or travelling (as I do remarkably little travel).. I’m in China for two reasons – love and time. Rather than explain it all in this reply, I think I’ll just do a post on it. 🙂

    And Vanessa, nicely put. It’s nice to know someone really gets what I’m saying, and it’s even cooler that it’s someone I know. I think for both of us where we live has something to do with that big blood pumper in our chests, eh?

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