On Being Here: Advice For Making Friends In Foreign Fishbowls
You didn’t close your eyes very much the night before because your stomach was playing a restless song of anxiety and nervousness. A foreign country is ahead, a land to be discovered; unraveled. Images flicker through your head and fears run through your mind: “I can barely speak this new language, I am gonna be hundreds of miles away from all those who I grew up with.” A blinding thought slips into your veins, “How will I make friends in this new place?”
On the plane to your desired province, you hear a woman say, “We are about to land at ______ International Airport. A bright, brilliant smile waltzes its way upon your cheeks. The bones holding your skin together are both excited and terrified of what is awaiting you.
The car drops you off at your destination and you get the feeling that you should be brave, because you are gonna be here for a while. You can barely construct a complete or coherent sentence. Your stomach is still feeling warm and violent.
After you open the door to your room, you see that there is no one else present. It’s so quiet when the realization hits you: “I am alone in a foreign country, so many miles from those who use to give me warm hugs and encouragement when I was hurt and struggling.”
But there are somethings to be experienced here; culture; customs, language, and people who are longing to meet someone as wonderful and astonishing as you! First, though, you must find these people; words must come forth from your mouth to communicate, without anxiety and without doubt, because you are as interesting to a native as you are interested in them.
A lot of them want to get to know you; a lot of them want to have late night conversations with you, a lot of them want to spend hours with you, just talking, unearthing your history; listening to your story and the life you have lived.
First, though, you must find these people; words must come forth from your mouth to communicate, without anxiety and without doubt, for you are here to learn, to fail in some things, and to succeed in the things your heart burns for.
After nine weeks of not meeting anyone, that is, someone you felt a strong connect to, you begin to feel a numbing, pulsing sensation of loneliness crawling through your bones.
An aching desire to run and retreat takes over. “No, I mustn’t run, I must endure and keep myself from buying a ticket — to escape,” you repeat, because you know if you don’t battle your thoughts to run, you will miss on what all this experience could and should be.
On a day of utter homesickness, you push your muscles to get up and walk to a shop you’ve found that serves your favorite drink. In there, unknown to you, sit someone who is about to change, for the better, the fabric of your life.
You have seen this person before and you have felt a strong interest, but there has been this feeling in your head, this doubt, this fear, that if you open your mouth, all the words that tumble out of you are going to sound wrong — you will be rejected.
Today, in this hour, you feel heaven coaxing you, whispering in your soul, “Go say hello, introduce yourself.” But your fear tells you, “No.”
In the rarely visited parts in your head you remember that someone, you can’t remember who, told you once, “You can’t live an extraordinary life by being comfortable.” In that moment of recollection, you understand that, for a second; for a short time, you will be very uncomfortable in an attempt to discover a person who is extraordinary.
You know if you don’t get up and put in the effort, you will miss the this chance to make a bond, to meet someone who is about to help you feel less alone. What are you going to let happen?