Disconnection & Belonging as an Expat
There’s a Brazilian saying that goes like this: “Antes só que mal acompanhado.” It translates to “better alone than with the wrong company” & today, I say amen to that.
In the era of fast “connection,” where information and communication are literally in the palm of our hands, I sat down and asked myself if I have ever felt so disconnected before. But there’s connection and connection, right. Although I’m connected to the internet and social media (not gonna lie) 24/7, the kind of connection I’m talking about is the one we all seek and need.
I was feeling lonely AF. As one of the decisions I made in 2018 was to distance myself from the people that didn’t feel “right,” I started 2019 with the right foot, but not the right mindset. As an expatriate, living abroad can be a blessing and a curse. Being away from the place you’re used to, where you have your roots, in special occasions like birthday and holidays (which for me, come together) can be a little harder. Especially tough when you distance yourself from the group you thought you belonged to.
With the changes I’ve been going through, and the awareness I’ve been gaining lately, I realized that true connections go beyond hangouts, dinners and parties. At least for me. At least in my 30s. It’s about talking about anything and everything, in person or over the phone, and feeling energized after— not drained. But my most meaningful connections were made in my 20s, and they’re in Brazil (my home country), thousands of miles away. And because I started making a few hard cuts in my circle here, I found myself feeling like I don’t belong— in this country, actually. So much so, that it ached. In my mind, in my body, in my soul.
Looking back, that skill I had to meet people at a bus stop or in line at the supermarket, it’s all gone. I’m sure it’s an age thing, I’m no longer in my 20s. I’m sure I also changed a little. And I know I haven’t made enough effort to meet new folks here. In part, it is my fault. I moved to a new country, I made a few friends, and I stayed there. As much as I talk about getting out of your comfort zone, I stayed in mine. It’s much easier to stick with what we know— culturally speaking as well.
Then my quest for growth came, I started reading Brené Brown, and I decided to practice living intentionally. & here we are: disconnection. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a crazy idea. Living intentionally, in every single way, is actually liberating. And because something hurts, it doesn’t mean it’s bad, I think. In this case, it means you’re growing. Some decisions can leave scars. Everything comes with a price. Everything. And I heard this is part of the process. Feeling lonely is part of the journey in the quest for true belonging. And hurting is part of the process of growing.
As a girl in her early 30s, and as an expat, going through this journey has been double challenging. Or maybe not, since the circle was already small, it just got smaller. I got say though, that I’m grateful for everyone I cross path with. Even more for the amazing people that I chose no longer to be part of my life (at least for now). And although I might be feeling lonely, today I say that I got the courage to stand alone. And I’m finally starting to feel peaceful about that.
“You’re only free when you realize you belong no place - you belong every place - no place at all.
The price is high. The reward is great.”
- Maya Angelou