When I was anxiously getting ready to make the big move abroad, I often heard people say to me with wide eyes and certainty "This experience is going to change you." The fact that moving my whole life to another part of the world could result in a change in who I was, was a given to me from day one. Though one thing I had never really thought about was how moving abroad was going to change my relationships with my family and friends, how they see me, nor how they too would change due to the simple natural progression of life.
Any type of a move and change can put a strain on a relationship, regardless of whether it’s a romantic, familial, or purely platonic relationship. And moving to another part of the world puts that even more to the test. One has to get used to the idea that someone who was once just a hop and a skip away will no longer be capable of being there in a flash. This can take a lot of getting used to, and for some people, as time goes on, sometimes the distance is just too much.
However, distance does not have to be the determining factor about whether or not a relationship can survive or not. With modern technology it is certainly easier than ever to remain in contact through social networking sites, smartphone applications, or even the old fashioned email, snail mail or a telephone call. What distance does is test the strength and adaptability of a relationship, and teach you to adapt, deal and even thrive in this new type of relationship.
It is not always easy, but it is a very doable task when two people are willing to put the effort into maintaining and developing a relationship and learn to embrace the changes. Often times I have even found that distance and change can be a very positive thing and make certain relationships even stronger and evolve in a way they never could have if I hadn’t been abroad.
Still though, despite all of these technological advances I have found that some of my relationships have changed for the worse over the years since I have been abroad, and I have often found that distance wasn’t to blame, but rather sometimes people just grow in different ways. Being abroad, your friends might simply not understand your lifestyle choices or why you can’t just settle down and live a “normal life”. They can no longer support something which they cannot and do not want to understand. There have often been times when I have felt rather down about how my relationships with some friends from childhood and college have seemed to be falling apart. We were simply veering off onto our own separate paths.
But then one evening, a friend and I got on the subject of our relationships with people, and how they have changed. My friend said something that put everything into perspective: “We aren’t meant to bring everyone along with us. Some people stay, some people go. It’s neither good nor bad. It’s just what it is. And we shouldn’t feel bad about it.” That was rather reassuring to me and helped me rid myself of some of my lost relationship sadness. We have so many people who come into our lives, who are just in our lives for a certain period of time, and this may have been a time we greatly enjoyed. But sometimes in life, as time goes on, people grow apart and there is no longer a common ground. This holds true whether you are living abroad or have never left your hometown. People change. Though it is sad when a long-time friendship ends, we have to try to see this in a different light. When people try to work things out, but no longer fit into one another’s lives anymore, it’s much better to let go with grace instead of forcing something that is no longer meant to be. This in turn allows for more opportunities for other people to come into your lives, which makes everyone happier.
The one constant and stable thing we can be sure of in life is change. People change and therefore their relationships change with them. Humans are dynamic creatures that are constantly evolving, leading to different needs and wants and a differing role that people play in them.
One thing we need to be sure of is that we surround ourselves with positive people who support our lifestyle choices, no matter what they are or where in the world they lead us. I always feel that truly good relationships find a way through the trials they get put through. And even if people don’t get along at some point in time, or your lives have gone in different directions, there is no reason why at a later point in time, it might not simply come together again. None of us are perfect and we have to be able to accept one another’s faults and differences and be willing to put in the effort to keep worthwhile relationships healthy and striving.
Gabrielle Byko is an international communication professional who has studied and been working in Germany and Austria for the past 6 years. She has a passion for experiencing international culture exchange in all of its forms.
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