One of the worst things about being an expat is that you always have to leave good friends behind. No matter how hard you try to stay in touch, it won’t be the same as when you saw each other every day. Social media makes it easier in some ways, but harder in others, because some people are so distracted these days they don’t have time to keep up with distant friendships.
But since there are always two sides to a coin, one of the absolute best things about being an expat is that you always get an opportunity to make new friends. All of the people I call good friends in my life today are people I met when I was newly arrived in a new, strange, and sometimes scary place. I cannot think how much poorer I would be in the friendship department if I had never gone to these places. Every one of our stops along the way has left me with a number of good memories and a couple or so good friends whose friendship has endured between continents. Sometimes that makes our life complicated, because now we have to stop in Raleigh, Wisconsin, and Kansas on our trip to the U.S., not to mention the long overdue trip to Singapore, which barely leaves any time for another stop in Mauritius for some chocolate mousse. (If I now sound like a high-flying snob, I apologize, but boy have I been craving that chocolate mousse lately!)
What makes a friend a good friend?
One of the rarest things to find in a friend is their ability and willingness to tell you the truth. I myself often fall short in that respect, opting rather to stay on safe ground and simply share thoughts and stories. It is so much easier. But sometimes you need to hear the truth, and a true friend is someone who won’t shy away from speaking it. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve found one such friend here in South Africa. It’s unlikely I would have met her under different circumstances. For one thing, we met through my blog, which is always a bit scary – what if you agree to meet and find that person incredibly boring? But in our case, it worked out. We come from very different backgrounds, but are similar in many ways. Whenever we meet, we yack away at a hundred miles an hour, and whenever we part, there are too many things left unsaid, for pure lack of space to say them in.
So I was sharing dinner with this friend the other day, and in so many words she told me that, basically, my blog design sucks. Okay, not quite like that, but I got the point that at least something had to be done about my ancient header. At first such critique invariably makes you feel defensive, angry even… but so valuable. Because of her words, and hours (and hours and hours – by now I am dreaming of HTML tags) of sleepless nights later, I’m at the brink of revealing my new blog design, and I’m completely in love with it. Would I have done it if everyone around me had simply congratulated me politely on having such a nice blog?
By the way, for fairness’ sake, I also got a lot of wonderful make-me-feel-good feedback from her that night:-) I’m now taking my glass (of water, having given up wine for Lent) and toasting to Good Friendship!
And stay posted for my new design.