Ask someone who has lived their whole life in one place about friendship, and they’ll tell you about their best friend that goes back at least thirty years. They probably still see this dear friend once a week. Ask someone who has lived more than a few places in their life about friendship, and they’ll tell you about their friends all over the world. Both people are especially blessed, and both have something the other probably wants but doesn’t have. One perhaps longs for a friend who has been there as long as they can remember, the other might wish they knew a few more people someplace else.
Now that I live in a small town, I’m surrounded by people who have been friends for years, and it can tempt me to feel lonely or out of place because I don’t have a friend that goes back years and years here. However, when I zoom out and see the rich friendships I carry with me from my time overseas, I see that I have a lot of great friendships, but they look different than those of the people around me.
A few days ago, a friend responded to a message I sent her and summed it up so perfectly that I have to share her words with you:
“It’s crazy to think how fast time has gone by. I feel like my China days are stuck in this time capsule that is perfectly preserved in memory and goes with me everywhere. It’s so weird to think that it has been years since I’ve seen you!”
I love that friends from the past don’t have to be forgotten, and as I’ve seen by visiting friends from the “China days,” we can pick up exactly where we left off, just like time really did stand still. We were blessed by friendships that went so deep that we still know each other, despite the time that has passed. When we need someone who just understands the things that those friends understand, they are there for us, and we’re there for them.
My family and I recently had the opportunity to meet up with friends, one of whom was a teammate of ours during our first years in China. Any time I get to see someone who knew me on the other side of the ocean, I feel connected with that part of myself that seems to have faded into the back of my brain–the self that speaks Chinese and loves Asian food and loves Chinese people. I need visits with “China friends” just like I needed visits to Texas when we lived in China. They are my connection to a place I love and a time of my life that will always be remembered fondly.
I’ve also been thinking about the difference in the pace of building new relationships, and I’ve decided that friendship years from time spent abroad should be calculated like dog years (multiply by 7 years). If I use that math, I’m able to get a little perspective: 2 years of friendship in China (2 years of doing daily life together and being family to one another while learning to thrive in a foreign environment) equals 14 years of friendship in America. Once I think of it like that, of course things happen slower here because we’re not all thrown into a stressful situation of being foreigners who need each other to survive in a new country.
When I zoom back in to my little place in the world, I’m feeling more encouraged about the state of my friendships here. There are still plenty of opportunities for relationships to grow, even if it’s at a different pace than I’m used to.
What’s the pace of friendship in your current situation? Do you find the pace exciting or frustrating? Do you have people in your life that help you feel connected to another time & place?