Friendly Data Dump

A friend, for me, is somebody who at their core, is a decent, clear-headed person. It is not necessary that we share exactly the same worldview, but to have a similar outlook on life and people, seems kind of critical. That doesn’t mean that you can’t disagree with your friends, but when you do, you have a rational discussion about it, not an emotion-laden argument.

Friendship for me as a TCK had a tendency to be ephemeral. Ephemeral because I moved constantly. During my life as I have moved from country to country I made many friends. But the average amount of time I would spend in any one country was only 2 – 3 years. So, one would make friends, but after a few years, one is in another country, and in the rush of settling into the new country, it is hard to maintain ties with the old country and the old relationships. Back in the days of snail mail, I used to actually write quite regularly back and forth to my friends where I no longer lived. But even that tends to trail off after a while. Strangely enough in these days of electronic communication, I find that I tend to communicate less. I don’t know why.

I read a very interesting article the other day, I think it was posted as a link in a TCK Facebook group, and I found it to be extremely germane. It talks about the fact that TCKs tend to make friends very quickly and to go very deep in terms of the amount of information they share with somebody quite soon after meeting them. Why? Because we have a subconscious understanding that we may not be around for a very long time so we don’t really have the time to waste in making a friend. We try to give as much information as we can, as quickly as possible. This is different to monocultural people who instinctively realize they have a very long time to get to know someone and thus build relationships more slowly.

This was a real revelation to me. I had always wondered why I seem to initiate an overly complete data dump every time I met somebody new. It seemed very at odds with my character, which I think of as being reserved and somewhat secretive. But it makes perfect sense. My whole life I knew that I was never going to be in one place very long, so when I met somebody, once my initial radar had recognized they were probably a decent person, I proceeded to give them a fairly complete précis of my life story. If they were also TCKs, or at least world travelers, they understood without explanation. But others? I think I may have caused some people discomfort by what they regarded as oversharing. As I have gotten older, I have consciously reined myself in from doing that. I find now that I tend to be quite reserved about people that I meet. My walls are always up and I’m careful about the people that I talk to.

I don’t mean to sound suspicious or paranoid. I am neither. I have good friends, I am not necessarily on the hunt for more but if I happened to meet somebody that really resonates with me, good! But otherwise, I am in general more reserved than I used to be.

Friends, true friends, at least in my life, are not numerous. I have many many acquaintances (some I wish I didn’t have), but true friends? I can probably count those on both hands and have a finger or two left over. By true friends, I mean people who when the chips are down, no matter what the circumstances, are there for you. I’m truly fortunate that I have as many as I do.

I personally believe that it is difficult to have large numbers of true friends. Relationships take time to cultivate and to maintain. I went through a phase not so many years ago where I knew lots and lots of people, a lot of them especially from my days in the business world. As I’ve grown older, especially since I hit 50, I have come to a more conscious realization that quality by far is more important than quantity. And after all, how many people can you really know and maintain a friendship with?

I have found now, that with my very good friends, even though I am starting to travel more and be away from them, it is easier to stay connected.

The last thing I wanted to say about friendship was this: as TCKs we are always pulled into conversations about “where is home?” Quite frankly I don’t really have a home, I’ve never really had a home, and probably never will (at least in the traditional sense). For me my home is my friends and that is more of a social construct than a geographical location or a physical dwelling place. I might be in a hotel in Hong Kong, or in a restaurant in Helsinki, but as soon as my Signal app goes off and I get a message from one of them, I am home. I have somebody that I can share with. Trials, tribulations, the good and the interesting. That instant connection genuinely makes me feel that I am ‘home’. I’m immensely grateful that  is with me wherever I go.