Monday, May 4, 2009

Maybe you CAN go home again

During my last visit to the UK, I met up with a good friend who was also my roommate for three years while we both did our PhDs.


Former Roommate attempting to steal my "perfect Canadian husband", as she calls him

As we said goodbye at the station after a day of showing Mr E Man around the pubs of Edinburgh, she said "you know, when you moved to Canada I thought I'd never see you again. But you come back. I see you every couple of years, and it's always like you've never been away. I can live with that."

Science is weird
. Everyone moves so often that you end up with friends all over the world, but with only maybe one or two friends left in the town where you all met. My experience in Vancouver has been different because, for the first time in my life, the majority of my friends are not students and post-docs. Not that people don't move away, because they do; in the last year I've said goodbye to two good friends, both of whom moved to be closer to their families (Ontario and UK) after failing to find affordable childcare in Vancouver.

But on Friday, one of them came back! She still works for the company I left in 2007, and was back in town for training, along with a couple of other former colleagues who have also left the main office to spread out around the world. We all went for beers after work, and again it was as if she'd never been away. It felt so natural to sit on the sunny patio with a pint in hand, and to chat about work, families and life in general.

Having cried at someone else's leaving party recently, I find this to be very reassuring. With some people, it will always be possible to start up again exactly where you left off. True friendship doesn't fade with time or distance.

27 comments:

  1. So true! And one of the things I love about science :). Goodbyes are easier when it really is "see you again soon".

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  2. Yup! And it was great to see you out on a Friday night too!

    The one thing that worries me is that flight prices are going up. I don't have a problem with that from an environmental point of view, but it does mean that I'll get home less often. I'm missing a good friend's wedding this month because my job isn't guaranteed yet and I couldn't afford it (although it's a good thing I didn't book flights, because I'd have been away or flying home or extremely jetlagged for my citizenship ceremony!)

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  3. It is a cool feeling to have friends all over the world (who travel)...it *is* a tradeoff to not having all your friends within a few miles though! Both are good in different ways, and glad you got a good visit!

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  4. As I moved back to PhD town, I realized a lot of people have left. And the rest have all got kids, dogs and houses far out in the countryside.

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  5. it's fun since this happened to me when I was ghome on my yearly visit earlier this year... "it's like we saaw eachother yesterday". I think Skype and phone helps a lot. As well as the fact that I don't think I would meet my other riends who moved within Swe as much either... everyone seems busy anyway so it wouldn't be that many times you'd meet up. more than one even a year of course but in essence I think it sis more about "sharing lives in conversations and occasonal new adventures".

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  6. I know! One of my friends from undergrad is now in OTTAWA! I already saw her four times in the past year.
    But I do find it stressful that every time I go to Holland I spend all my time visiting people. I never have a proper vacation. There are always appointments to be made. Fun appointments, but still, there's a whole *schedule*. I just want to sit around and do nothing. Last time I was there I simply didn't tell some people. I went to a wedding, where I saw 50% of my friends, and the other 50% I called very last minute when I was already there. Only one of them had time to meet me on such short notice, and that was just fine with me, to be honest.

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  7. Phizzle, it really is fun to meet up with friends in other cities. My last job sent me to lots of conferences in the US and I met up with friends in Boston, DC and San Diego.

    HGG, I have 1 friend still in Newcastle (undergrad city) and 1 in a suburb near Glasgow (PhD city). But at least I get to see other parts of the country on visits home!

    Chall, I am appreciating Skype even more than before, now that I have MacTavish and the built-in webcam! My friends who stayed in the UK do see each other way more often than I see any of them though.

    Eva, that's great! One of my best friends from high school lives in Seattle!

    I do know what you mean about visits home though. It's just exhausting sometimes, and you tell the same stories to different people, night after night... I have stopped trying to cover the whole country in one go, and now alternate between "York and Northwards" and "York and Southwards". Some people get incredibly offended if I don't end up seeing them, so I have to be careful though... your last minute phone call approach wouldn't go down very well!

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  8. My postdoc PI always gives a speech at everybody's leaving party about how "in science we never really say goodbye..."

    It's true! And being in pretty much the same boat as you (a nearly equal distance from my grad uni, since as we've established they were the same!), I have the same types of experiences with my friends whenever I go back!

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  9. CAth and Eva> I don't know about the last min call either... this time around I didn't travel as much as the other times. I decided to let them come to me, rather than I run around lika a crazy. that worked kind of ok. I do miss the whole "vacation and not running around meeting people" but I guess that is part of my punishment for moving away?!!?

    I am going back this summer too (yey!) but have said to the few friends I have told that since I will travel with significant other it will be the most important to me to explore my home country with him... and to meet up for a beer or so... but not to jsut go "visit all friends and family". It might be a bit too much on the first trip....

    I find it interesting who visits me in the other place though. It is clear that some of my friends are more intrerested than others to take a little vacation of their own to hang out. Maybe meet up in a city in between etc.. THat way it is more of a vacation for both of us. And we get to experience something new and have more new memories!

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  10. More and more I find that just about anywhere I go, I already have friends there or nearby, which is great. And while I'd love to see them more often, I wonder if all the friends I acquired over the decades in all the different parts of the world, collected in one spot, would actually get along :)

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  11. Arlenna, that's a really nice way of putting it.

    Chall, there is definitely an element of "punishment for moving away"!

    I found the first time taking Mr E Man home to be the best, because everything was new and exciting for him. It's the 2nd and 3rd times going back to the same places that are the problem... the flip side is that he's getting to know my friends and family a lot better, and I do try to make sure we go to at least one new place (new to him, anyway) every time we go, and try and see his Uncle and cousins too.

    Lots of my friends came out here in my first year or two, but it's slowed down since then as they've acquired partners and kids. Some people are coming for the Olympics though!

    Wayfarer, yup!

    SG, interesting question! I've had OK success introducing different groups of friends to each other (e.g. at our wedding), but I don't know how we'd do if we got together for more than one day!

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  12. This is indeed a reassuring post, Cath. It's sad to be always saying goodbye to friends in science... but it's good to know that goodbyes aren't permanent. Glad to hear you have your friend back!

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  13. Sadly, 'twas just a visit... but hopefully the first of many!

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  14. Very, very true. There are people I only talk to once every few years even though we have contact info, etc and we're always right as we left off. No need to jump through the conventional hoops to reaffirm our friendship.

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  15. That is really true. Dr. Man and I were talking about places to go on vacation in the future. Every place we talked about, I knew someone there!

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  16. Hermitage, isn't that great?

    Amanda, funnily enough, all of the destinations on our list are friend-free! Perhaps we subconsciously need a break from that kind of holiday ;) Or maybe we're just not cool enough to know people in Costa Rica and Cuba.

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  17. Those are the best kind of friends, aren't they? As for whether all of one's friends would get along if they all got together, I'd have to vote no for my friends. I have groups of friends from various parts and time periods of my life who are very, very different from each other. Hell, some of my friends who already know each other don't get along!

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  18. That's a shame... do they live in the same town as you/each other?

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  19. MadHatter - in my case, they don't even all speak the same language ;)

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  20. Cath--My high school friends are scattered all over the world. College friends are mostly in the US, but in different states. Same with grad school friends. Makes it harder to see people, but like you said, it also means I have friends just about everywhere.

    ScienceGirl--Yeah, I see how that might be a problem! :-)

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  21. And that you don't have to bring the ones who don't get on together very often!

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  22. ah! cath! this post is so timely! i just found out last week that my best friend (whom i've never lived more than an hour away from in the last 8 years) is moving to northern california in july. :( i was pretty devastated. but i think you're right- true friendships will be ok over space and time.

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  23. Oh, I'm sorry to hear that - it really sucks when friends move away. But yes, don't worry, it will be OK, it will just be... different.

    How long of a drive is that for you?

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  24. This post makes me feel a lot better since I have no clue where I'll be living come September ... current plan is if I don't have a job by then I'm going to travel around the continent until I have to be back in SF for a wedding in October.

    Although airfare is going up for you? Really? Because prices between London and SF are the lowest I've ever seen them for this summer.

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  25. That sounds like an excellent plan!

    And yes, airfares are going up. Or rather, Zoom (budget airline flying between Canada and the UK/Paris) went bust this year, so I'm suddenly forced to fly Air Canada or BA, which are significantly more expensive. My Dutch friend was quoted something ridiculous like $2,000 per person return to Amsterdam this summer (KLM), so it does seem that the prices are actually up too.

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