One of the things I didn’t take into account when moving to a new country was loneliness.
Looking back, I think it had always been in my peripheral view. I saw posts on Facebook and articles about it, but I only skimmed them and never gave it much thought. It wasn’t something that was relatable to me.
When I did my master’s degree in the UK, my social life was colorful. I was hungry for experience, and so was everyone, it seemed. Meeting new people and forging friendships were not a problem; I have met and become very close friends with some people from this time, with friendships that I deeply cherish. That’s how loneliness escaped my dictionary.
I should’ve known that everything is much different when you’re a student.
Now here I am, a working woman in her late 20s, living a life in a completely new country. Loneliness has never been this loud.
I’ve been to countless meetups and events, met friendly people and hung out with them many times; but none of them I’d call close friends. Familiarity, which usually comes naturally after some time, is completely absent. Conversations are often stilted, and meetups feel like work where I have to put a great effort to feel a semblance of friendliness. I become more and more reluctant to go out, preferring to stay home with a book instead. But then I’d think, ‘Well, you’re not gonna make friends this way,’ and force myself to go out. And so the cycle continues.
Is it just because I’m getting old, or because people here are particularly reserved? I don’t know.
One thing I realize is how much harder it is to be close friends with people when they already have a solid circle of friends, either from school, college, or somewhere in their early 20s. If many people are worried about finding a soulmate when they’re approaching 30, I’m worried about having close friends. How am I going to find them when they’ve settled comfortably with their longtime friends who have been through life’s highs and lows with them?
Meanwhile, I’ve grown apart with my close friends in Indonesia, and those I met in the UK during my master’s. As much as I fight to keep the friendships the same, I guess it’s just natural that it’s not as close as it used to be, especially when we live thousands of miles apart and don’t talk (let alone see) each other that often. I recently read Dolly Alderton’s book, Everything I Know About Love, and the passages about friendships in adulthood ring truer than anything.
“… But little did I know how much work it takes to sustain that kind of intimacy with a friend as you get older — it doesn’t just stick around incidentally.’
And one that I found so profound and gut-wrenching it made me cry:
‘The love is still there, but the familiarity is not.’
So here I am, with a distance between me and old friends, and a much bigger distance between me and the people here.
I wonder if I’ll ever have close friends in Sweden, and if I’ll ever find the sense of camaraderie that I haven’t felt for so long. I wonder if I’ll ever find home in the people here; or if I don’t, if I’ll be fine with the crippling loneliness that will forever follow me, an immigrant, around.