Allow me this rant…
Ever since I’ve been back there has been a great deal of pressure for me to connect or reconnect with various people. My refusal to do so has resulted in many annoyed people who happen to be angry with me. Some are people I’ve never met, others and/or most are people who I used to know.
When you come back to Amman from where ever you’ve been, there is this unwritten obligation to see everyone, to sit with everyone, to talk to everyone, to go out with everyone, to chit chat with everyone, to reconnect with everyone, once again. It is on some level an attempt to resurrect a past; to recreate a moment that is no longer there.
No doubt, the old stomping grounds is familiar territory to me. I enjoy being amongst people I love, in the city I love, where I feel at home and in my element. But connecting and more importantly reconnecting is an absurd process to me.
Eventually you run into people and the reaction is either “wow, how’s it going? long time no see” or “walak 3eib 3aleik, why haven’t you called?”. The former is for people who were never really your friends and they know that too. The latter is for people who think they’re your friends, pretend to be your lifelong buddies, but in reality they’re not. But they enjoy the charade of badgering you on your lack of “manners” for not reconnecting with them.
In what rule book of etiquette is this a necessity?
And while it can happen to anyone at any given stage in their life, here’s the one that is the most important to me thus far:
When you go abroad to study and come back several years later.
Because those few years are packed with enough experiences to outweigh any other stage in a person’s life. And it’s during those few years when you discover what’s important to you, where you stand in life, who you really are and who you’re friends really are as well. If you haven’t used your time at college to figure those things out then you’ve just missed out on something big. It’s not exactly as big as reaching enlightenment, but in a zen way, it is a way of finding yourself.
Coming back to my old stomping ground, the territory may be familiar in a comforting way, but I have inevitably changed. To return to Amman unchanged, without a single scar to show for your time away, is sheer lunacy. So when you do reconnect with people you have those first 10 minutes of them examining you and then saying “you’ve changed a lot” or “something about you is different” or “you haven’t changed at all”.
And this isn’t the high school phase anymore. This isn’t that time in your life where you want to get to know everyone, party with everyone, chat it up with anyone, be as popular as possible, have the longest contact list on your cell and the longest MSN list on your PC. This is the start of adulthood, where knowing who you are and who your true friends are is what counts. And if you have those two things covered, then that’s the two biggest weapons in your arsenal.
Post college is when experience and time conspire to quickly chip away at your social circle until all that’s left is the residue of friends who were never really friends and the concentrate of pure friendship. If you’re lucky, the latter is represented by at least 2-3 people, or in other words: only 2-3 unblocked people on your MSN list of 452.
If you’re lucky.
Those are the people you come back to. Those are the people you rely on. Those are the people who help you reclaim your stomping grounds. Everyone else is…at best an acquaintance, and at worst, simply someone you knew once upon a time.
Does it sound harsh?
Maybe this is reality post-life-abroad.
And here’s the beautiful part about all this: at this stage in one’s life, when you’re trying to (as cliche as it sounds) build an actual life for yourself, you are free. You are absolutely free. There is no inside politics. You don’t have to put up with people you put up with during high school or even college. You have the freedom to pick and choose who you want to be a part of your life, a part of your circle.
So no, I don’t feel obligated to “get together” or to “call you”. I don’t want to “catch up”. I don’t want a sit down where people try and gather as much info about your life so they can either compare their life’s situation to yours or gossip about you behind your back; probably both.
And no, I really don’t want to reminisce about the past, resurrecting ancient scenes until I discover mid-conversation that that’s all there is to talk about really: the past. Where everything is static; where everyone and every thing is unchanged. But in truth, everything has changed and everyone has changed.
I’m just trying to make the best of it with what I’ve got.
I have been in the us for almost 3 years, I went for a visit before 4 months and you are 100% on the spot!!And yes after living abroad and becoming more mature your friend list shrinks dramatically, maybe becasue some of your friends just don’t want to be mature..And yes you are left with 5-6 close friends who will always be your back..
Living abroad also taught me the meaning of family, I just miss the old days when my dad used to curse me, when they first caught me smoking:D
Good post nas!!
Naseem, I completely identify with your experience. when i went back to Jordan for a visit last summer every single person i saw was 3atban that i didn’t give THEM a special call and INFORM THEM that i was visiting, as if they cared to call me or at least call my parents to know how I was doing throughout the year. But it is funny how all of a sudden, I become the aleeelit zou2 somehow..lol. well, I am not blaming anyone for this disconnection that happened during the year, but yes, when i go back to Jordan to visit my family I AM NOT OBLIGATED TO CALL OR EVEN VISIT WITH ANYONE other than the people I want to keep as part of my circle.
Muhannad, yes yes, I miss my familyyy even the bahadil or conflict parts..lool Oh boy, I can’t wait till June to visit them. the posts I am reading these days just erupt my volcanic longings to family… I can’t wait ;((
Thanks Naseem for this post 🙂
Mohanned and Secratea: thanks for reading both 🙂
The main problem is that people have wayyy to much time on their hands in Jordan. I’ve been abroad for 7 years, and every time I go visit, my parents friends pretend to want to see me. We don’t have much in common. I identify with your problem, but I dread the day that I do come back, cause I fear all the free time people have on their hands will be directed against me :)..
oh man its as if ur talking bout me trying to connect to ANYONE in this country! altho dubai is multicultural but im just not cut out for an arab country.. u develop acquaintances, but real friends, very hard.. and old school friends have become a distant (nevertheless, happy) memory lilasaf.. ppl just grow apart.
‘People’ just grow apart- what a sad statement. Sadder still is when those ‘people’ are close family…
In mine… particularly if these are people I’ve had some sort of friendship with…I don’t prefer cutting people out of my life suddenly and without an explanation – especially if these people still feel that we have a strong friendship of some sort. If I reach a point in which I don’t want to have anything to do with an individual I once was close to one way or another, then I owe it up to those moments and perhaps even up to those person’s expectations to let him/her know that our ‘friendship’ isn’t what it once was and will never be.
you’re talking about something totally different than what my post refers to 🙂