The strange phenomenon, feeling closer to people 16,000km away

Well, we’re now into the 4th week since returning to Melbourne from spending the last 5 months in London – a nice point to stop and reflect on how we are feeling and adjust course if needed.

Unexplained isolation

How can this be possible?  I’m no longer 16,000km away from friends and family, yet I feel strangely isolated.  This feeling has only surfaced this week – perhaps it’s a manifestation of the last few months in actual isolation, but I still can’t understand it.

in the first few weeks of returning we had plenty to keep us busy.  We’ve been applying for visas, sourcing somewhere to live for the next few months and running around with coffee catch ups.  No time for thinking, reflecting or for reality to catch up with expectation.  Sure, my partner and I have each other – but I think there was an expectation that we’d regain our connections to friends and family, and pick up where we left off.  Instead, we are left looking at each other scratching our heads wondering why we feel the way that we do.

We don’t, because we can

So, friends just around the corner, family are within a 1 hour drive – so what’s stopping us from being constantly surrounded by loved ones?  Probably the fact that everyone has their own lives combined with the strange reality that we don’t generally do things that aren’t impossible anymore.  There’s something discouraging about the fact that you know people are close, so there’s always later.

When you can’t do something, you generally yearn for what you can’t have.  I remember thinking, “what I wouldn’t give to catch up with my friends who are on the other side of the world, alas, they are tucked up in bed fast asleep”.  Fast forward a few weeks and the same catch ups seem to be difficult to orchestrate and let’s face it – we’re exhausted.  How horrible is this?

What’s different now, to then?

If this were a year ago, it would have been difficult to catch up with friends too.  Of course, they would have their own lives (like, full time work, family etc.) and at that point, I would have mine (Full time work and whatever drama was going on at the time).  Upon reflection, I didn’t tend to socialise too much with anyone outside my circle of workfriends, ex workfriends and family.  Maybe this isolation is merely a product of both convenience and lack of social connection from my part!

Now, of course, I don’t have the pressure of full time work.  I would need to fit into everyone else’s lives and I’m not the kind of person to impose myself on others.  But what makes me feel like I’m imposing on others?  Probably, a slight feeling of embarrassment of returning to Australia after announcing a move over to London, combined with the overwhelming temporary nature of the return.

Timezone magic

The time difference between Melbourne and London was an interesting one.  When we were settling down to late night television, we would start seeing people back home waking up and dabbling around online.  Mornings for us, up until we were having lunch, people back home were in full swing and up for the chat. My mum even commented that I’ve spoken to her more from London that I did usually in Melbourne!

This seemed to work well for feeling less alone quite well, hence the strange realisation that we felt a bit more connected to people when we were overseas than we do right now.

A stranger in my own town

I was discussing these feelings with my partner over the past couple of days.  We feel like strangers in our own town.  Coffee shops which were previously familiar in their service were suddenly cold, like we were tourists.  People would ask us where we were from in stores.  We may be a bit paranoid, but feels like people stare at us as they walk past.  Perhaps we have a big sign around our necks with “OUTSIDER” on them?

If you’d have asked me last year where I would have felt like a stranger in my own town, I would have looked at you strangely.  How on earth could I feel like a stranger in Melbourne?  Well, here we are!

The way forward

Wow, so, isolation isn’t fun for anyone.  I’m pretty sure it’s invisible to those around us that we could possibly be feeling like this and of course, it’s not their problem or fault. But we need to do something to feel a bit more connected to life.

Time to flex those socialisation skills and get out there.  Dinners, lunches and coffees welcome.  It’s clear that we need to make much more of an effort – whether or not people are excited that we were back for a little while.

Have you felt more distant when physically closer to someone?

Let me know if something similar has happened to you.  Is physical distance less of an emotional connector / factor as people would think?




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