People keep sending me similar blogs to Annoying Travel Bird but as tempting as it is to continue hurling super-sized portions of scorn in that direction, I’m a bit concerned about becoming a sort of Mary Whitehouse for the blogosphere, so I thought it best to steer clear. But I haven’t blogged in ages because I’m trying this new thing where I’m not massively indiscreet about everything in my life and as a result haven’t been able to think of anything interesting to write. I could talk about the ‘situation’ in the ‘region’ which seems to be ramping up quite a lot with bombs going off at an alarming frequency. But I’ve got an incredibly hazy picture of what’s happening politically in Lebanon, a sort of blurry watercolour, let’s say, and since it doesn’t affect my day-to-day life much, if at all, it would be both disingenuous and pointless of me to try to provide any sort of commentary. Still though, it was totally weird and bleak driving past one of the bombsites the other day. I’ve started to dream of bombs. Last year I had a dream about chemical weapons but it also featured the Sugababes which I think is probably a reasonable indication of how my brain is wired.
My friend Stefan did send me the link to this beautifully written article called ‘What Happens When You Live Abroad’, though, and given that in four days I’ll have been away for one whole year, I’d like to consider it, in a non-sweary-outburst way. The article is an honest appraisal of the life of an expat, and while I haven’t been away long enough to feel split down the middle like that writer does, it does capture what it’s like to be rootless. Unlike the baffling pseudo-positivity of the Girl Who Travels, parts of it are palpably wistful, and though it might strike anyone sat back in London cursing my irritatingly sun-spilled Instagram feed as surprising, they’re the bits that resonated with me most. It’s the “life has gone on without you” bit. When you boil it down it’s basically talking about FOMO; in fact it’s coming to terms with the fact that it’s worse than FOMO, you’re actually genuinely MO. The MO I’m referring to falls into two distinct categories: your friends and family, and your career. With my last couple of posts I became the momentary crusader for people with regular, 9-to-5 desk jobs back home but the irony, which eluded the shitheads in the comments section crowing that I was ‘jealous’ and ‘bitter’, is that I’m so far off any sense of stability myself. I’ve been doing a whole lot of enviable stuff, I guess, but I can’t get rid of the deeply ingrained feeling that I’m falling behind in terms of ‘normal’ expectations. People back home are in serious relationships, moving in together, talking mortgages, making serious headway with their careers. Jesus, a guy I used to be best mates with just won a bloody Brit award. I’m getting greedy. I want it all, at once. The Brit award too.
Another thing I found interesting in the article was this: ‘While it’s enormously refreshing and exhilarating to feel like you can be anyone you want to be and come without the baggage of your past, you realize just how much of “you” was based more on geographic location than anything else.’ It’s taken the cataclysmic social fail of my last job to make me realise what I’ve got to offer in both social and professional situations that I’ve had to separate from the “me” that feels very much tied up in London; the necessity to find, and if not to find, then invent, common ground with people who exist in a Venn galactically far away from my own. Somebody told me before I moved out here that I would learn a lot about myself, and while I scoffed at that due to an instinctive inclination to resist anything that might be construed as naff (we always give Stephanie grief when she says anything that we perceive to be ‘earnest’, which according to our bogside read ‘Watching the English’ is typically, well, English) I’ll admit that it’s turned out to be true in that my capacity for self-reliance was news to me. And this is totally naff, but ultimately, moving away has given me a much stronger sense of self. Plus I know like 30 words in Arabic now. Anyway, #introspectivemoment over now, and the blog should return to its normal, misanthropic form. After all, it hasn’t rained all winter, so we’re about to condemned to hell for the duration of the summer. Ask me again about my sense of self come August. @jphov