Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saying Goodbye

As a rather obsessive prepare-for-the-worst planner, I read up on becoming an expat before I became one. I learned mostly about culture shock; the initial honeymoon period, followed by the inevitable pit of despair/regret/homesickness, and the eventual adjustment to a new normal.
to put it mildly
However, I didn't pre-read much on the expat lifestyle itself, post-acceptance phase. For one thing, I didn't realize at the time that most of our friends would also be expats, and that we'd share an intensely-bonded expat lifestyle together. So since moving abroad I've learned more, some by reading but largely through experience. I am now well acquainted with an expat fate worse than culture shock. Many career expats have said it more eloquently than I could, so I will summarize:

  1. Expats inevitably move back home or on to new adventures.
  2. Some of those expats will be your very dearest friends.
  3. Occasionally, several of your dearest friends will leave all at once.
  4. It sucks big time.

Basically, add another giant pit of despair after the "acceptance" part of the graph, plummeting your emotional state past the x-axis into negative territory. I don't know why it's missing here, but I can only assume the graph-creator was too busy weeping in a corner because her best friend just moved away.


This has been a hard, heartbreaking summer for goodbyes.

Yes, in a way it's the only fair payback for being the ones to leave your own family and friends behind by moving away in the first place. But in another way, it's the completely unfair payback gift that keeps on giving and never gets easier.

Obviously, we didn't travel back to the USA this summer. It's so expensive for the four of us to go every year, plus we had family lined up to come visit us here this summer. Yet looking back now, I'm actually grateful that we were here all summer to spend quality time with good friends before they left and to say a proper goodbye, as painful as it was (and still is).

Daphne wrote and performed a special goodbye song for (her honorary Uncle) Martyn.
The. Heart. Breaks.

We said one more big goodbye this month, and that was to Facebook.

Why? It's a long story, but here's the short version: Pete, who was never a big fan, hasn't checked it regularly for years. I, on the other hand, checked it obsessively. I recently tried to cut back on my addiction by un-following over half of my friend list, hoping to focus my interactions on the people I care most about.

Facebook fought back. Its nutty algorithms filled my feed with increasingly extraneous information about (or barely even about) the remaining people, and my news feed was rendered ridiculous. I had felt a bit creepy about Facebook for a long time - my own dependent relationship to it as well as the general way it operates - but for some reason this particular experience was enough motivation for me to cut the cord completely.  So, I deactivated my account. Pete completely deleted his.

And can I just pause for a moment to show you a couple of the manipulative things Facebook did as I tried to deactivate?
Oh NO!  Look who will miss me! I better get distracted from this silly deactivating process and use Facebook to send them each a personal message RIGHT NOW!

And my "486 friends will no longer be able to keep in touch" with me? So, you're saying I'll become completely unreachable? Deactivating Facebook means I will disappear into oblivion!?!
and later…

Wait, you mean if I don't check this box, people can still send me stuff through Facebook AFTER I've deactivated?  But, if they did send me something, I'd be forced to reactivate if I wanted to actually access or see the message!  Oh so sneaky. You almost got me, Facebook, but I stayed strong and checked the opt-out box. And no, I won' be automatically reactivating in 7 days. At least that box wasn't already checked for me!
Thank you, Facebook, for continuing to be creepy and manipulative on my way out, thus reaffirming my decision to pull the plug.


It's been nearly two weeks. Aside from some initial withdrawal symptoms, I honestly haven't missed it much. Instagram (even Pete's), FaceTime, Google Hangouts and Whatsapp are still active, and I hope to continue blogging for the foreseeable future. I remain optimistic that we can still stay in touch with friends around the globe, even after we've said goodbye to them in Luxembourg and despite Facebook's dire warnings to the contrary.

So please do say hello in the comments here every once in awhile. We'll see how it goes!