Tuesday, June 3, 2014
End of term blues: Overseas edition
Only among expats is the turnover rate so remarkably high. For some perspective: Dr. Hubs, a native in a department overwhelmingly dominated by same, has lost as many colleagues over the course of his career as I have lost, on average, every single year among my expat friends (scattered across several different departments). The natives seem to hunker down quite happily--which is unsurprising, since despite its maddening quirks AtSU remains one of the top institutions in the country. But for expats, this place is nearly always a stepping stone.
At this point I have been working here long enough that I can comprehend the longstanding expats' reluctance to befriend fresh-faced newcomers until (at least) their fourth or fifth year in the trenches. Personally, I'm not sure how many more years I can take of losing very good friends to bigger and better opportunities, only to have them replaced by a set of bewildered, newly minted PhDs who have little choice but to rely on more seasoned institutional veterans for guidance. The entire fall semester, the refrain sounds in my head: Are you my friend because you like me, or because I can tell you how to get $h*t done around here? An unfortunate question, perhaps, but one that has grown louder in my head in spite of all attempts to tamp it down.
This year's transition has hit me especially hard, perhaps because the friends who are leaving are the last batch to have seen me in the salad days of pre-parenthood. Friends tend to change anyways once kids come along, to be sure, but this group has been remarkably tenacious, sticking out the rough early months of motherhood to make sure that I can still live a normal adult life, at least once in a while! In contrast, no matter how awesome September's arrivals might be, I suspect that they won't be able to resist seeing me as a mom first, and everything else (parties! movies! travel!) a distant second. For my part, I am likely to prioritize time with my kid over the investment of effort it takes to bond with a newcomer. Things may never click in the same way again.
But hey. Life goes on, right? No hard feelings. I raise a glass to all of you who may be packing up and shipping off, temporarily or permanently, for an inter- or intra-continental adventure of your own. Remember those you leave behind, for we shall think of you fondly, and often.
-- Edna Expat