A good friend is leaving town. We will still get to see each other whenever we want.
By Dulce Zamora
This is my friend, Jimmie. I’ve known her since 2008, when I started exercising at the gym where she worked. Over the years, we’ve developed a friendship over workouts, coffee, smoothies, long talks, and sister circles. She became my personal trainer, and then, in the last couple of years, also my life coach. This week, she will move back to the U.S. after 16 years in Singapore.
There are people who leave footprints in our lives, and, for me, she is one of them. Our time together helped me rediscover the Dulce I forgot about when I became a wife and mother. As women, we spend so much time putting others first that we often forget about self care. It helps to have other women remind us that we need to nurture ourselves, too.
When we move away from our home communities like expats, immigrants, and military families do, we have to recreate our support systems. It is not easy. I’ve come to realize that after saying goodbye to so many friends in many recreated villages over the years. When my everyday time with a person is at an end, I have this space in my heart that longs for old times. I guess that happens when you open yourself up to people, and when they or you move away. When they are no longer around, you realize how much they were a part of your life.
Friends like Jimmie are part of my global village, which has ironically become more linked during the pandemic. Yes, there is a loneliness to lockdown. However, there is also a lot of connection. My family and I have been a part of birthday parties, game nights, happy hours, coffees, reunions, classes, meetings and conferences over Zoom, FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype, and Google Meet. Before the pandemic, I used to miss these events, because I lived far away from many loved ones. Now, I have ongoing calls with people in the U.S., Canada, Philippines, and Australia. I meet regularly with a couple of writer’s groups in California. My young daughters produced a movie with a friend in New York, and now they’re working on a joint fantasy novel. My husband, who dusted off his turntables this year, has practiced deejaying during online family gatherings.
In the Spring of 2019, it was a big deal when I flew to New York to attend a writer’s conference. It was the first time since parenthood that I flew without my kids in tow. It was the first time I reconnected with my old writing community, and with friends I used to hang out with when I was single. I rediscovered a part of myself during that trip. In fact, I processed it all with Jimmie when I got back to Singapore (in between lateral leg raises and squats, and then over a chai almond smoothie). I reclaimed myself as a writer and as a woman with hopes and dreams of my own.
Don’t get me wrong, I still support my husband and kids with their endeavors. They’re a big part of why we are in Singapore — Hubby works in the region, and the kids go to a fantastic school. However, I’ve learned to make some room for myself, too (although it is a constant struggle to squeeze more time for me). The good news is that I have options now outside of flying to New York (although there’s really nothing like being there in person). I can attend more conferences in different countries, and still make it to dinner with the family on time.
It remains to be seen how global digital connection will play out. What will happen after the pandemic is under control? Will the mass virtual conferences, playdates, and holiday gatherings continue? Will I still be invited to game nights and happy hours in different parts of the world? Who knows? There’s so much uncertainty in the world right now. What I do know as a Filipina-American immigrant and as a Singapore expat: The world is more connected than we think.
Prior to the pandemic, in 2007, I had a baby shower with family in California via FaceTime. Afterward, a good friend flew to Singapore to visit me, and she brought my shower gifts. When my parents used to host annual New Year’s Eve parties at their house with the extended family, my husband, kids, and I joined in via FaceTime. In 2019, I took part in a 12-week writing seminar based in the San Francisco Bay Area. We met via Zoom. I wasn’t the only participant living outside the States. A writer based in New Zealand also joined in every week.
This is why I’m beginning to see farewells as transitions as opposed to dead ends. I felt sad when I said goodbye to Jimmie, but she made sure to share with me some items she couldn’t take along to her new life. (That’s another thing about moving, you realize you can let go of stuff you’ve kept in the recesses of your closet for decades. But that’s for another blog post!) While I’m grateful for her shares, I know the real gift is our friendship. I’ve so appreciated the space she gave me to find myself.
Now, my local in-person community is a little smaller, but my global village has expanded. Actually, the global has become even more local during the pandemic. While that doesn’t erase the pang of missing someone in person (we so long to hang out with our family and friends in different countries), it does help to know there are everyday options to stay connected. That long-distance capability — at a time when COVID is threatening to destroy human connection — is truly a super power.
© 2021 Windswept Wildflower