Make new friends, but keep the old

Many, many moons ago I was a Girl Scout, and I remember singing that song at summer camps. I think about those lyrics quite often in this crazy overseas life. Making friends is one of the best and worst parts about the foreign service. In some ways it’s great because I like meeting new people and I’ve already been so fortunate to make new lifelong friends. On the other hand, making new friends can be intimidating and awkward. You’re starting completely from scratch at each new post, just hoping to find someone (and if you’re really lucky, a few someones) that “gets” you.

I know I’m lucky to have the friends that I do. Some of my earliest memories include meeting and becoming best friends with Ashleigh in Mrs. Lehman’s first grade class at Maple Street School. She was so cool and I knew I wanted to be just like her. Almost 30 years later, Ashleigh is still one of my dearest friends, and while we no longer fight over who gets to ride in the front seat, I still kind of want to be like her. I’ve written before about my hometown group of girlfriends and how much they mean to me. We’re reuniting again in just a few weeks and I can’t wait to see them. I also have a fun date planned with my very best friend from college, and some of the awesome people JR and I met in law school are making the pilgrimage to Orrville in July for a cookout. I’m counting down the days until these visits!

When we decided to live overseas, saying goodbye was hard. Staying in touch means making time to see each other when I’m in Ohio and that often requires months of advance planning, but my friends are pros at this and are no longer surprised when I email them 6 months out asking them to set aside a date for some quality time while I’m home. We email, text and call as often as we can and we’re grateful for the time we have together. Still, I miss out on birthdays, get togethers, play dates and other fun things. I’ve asked them to stop having fun without me but no one seems interested in that request.

Arriving in Kosovo with no job and no friends, I knew I needed to find my people quickly. And thank goodness I did. Without Amy and Jessica, I probably couldn’t have made it through that first tour. It helps so much to have someone else who knows exactly what you are going through when you experience the highs and lows of the foreign service. Our time in the same country (actually, on the same continent as we’re on 3 different ones right now) was short-lived, but thankfully they’re just a gchat and a few time zones away.

I dreaded starting over once again in Georgia. I know I’m a broken record about this, but the first few weeks and months in a new place is really draining on me. Before we arrived I was emailing with ET, the wife of one of Justin’s future work colleagues. She offered to answer any of my questions about life in Tbilisi, and while I initially tried to reign in my crazy, I let it all fly after just a few exchanges. I could tell instantly by her responses that she was my kind of people. When we landed and I had no phone, no car, and definitely no friends, she swooped in and I loved her from the start. Our husbands and kids became friends, and they introduced us to more of their friends, and it all seemed so easy and comfortable. We expected to have 3 years here together but they left early for a great new job offer. Happy for their good fortune but sad to lose them, we enjoyed our last few weekends together and finally got around to taking pictures. Amazingly, in the year+ that we spent together, ET and I didn’t have a single photo of the two of us until the night before we left!

Our girls


Our farewell photo shoot

I was fortunate to have other girlfriends still at post when I returned after having William, so I didn’t have to start all over, but there were some new arrivals and potential friends to be made. Constantly putting yourself out there to make new friends can be tiring. Most people assume I’m an extrovert, but I definitely have introvert tendencies. I also struggle with social anxiety sometimes and worry about silly things when I meet someone new. Should I send her a Facebook friend request or is it too soon? Can I wear yoga pants to your house?  Do you like dessert? Were you team Noel or Ben, Big or Aidan, Brandon or Dylan? (The correct answers are Ben, Aidan, Dylan.)

In the beginning I’m questioning myself constantly. It’s a huge relief when I can do things like send a mid-morning text saying I need to vent and then show up at a friend’s house and she has mimosas ready (thank you, Marisa) or respond to an invitation to come over with “Okay, I’m coming over but I’m still in the clothes I slept in” (thank you, Bridget).

Friendships and goodbyes have been on my mind as we enter another summer transfer season. Some of our great friends and their families are departing, including the above mentioned Marisa and her daughter, K, who is Abby’s best buddy. These two are full of mischief and giggles, and it’s been so much fun watching them grow up together the last two years.

 

As Marisa keeps reminding me, it’s not goodbye, it’s see you soon. So to my amazing friends all over the world, I’ll see you soon!

 

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