Expat Ramblings: Too Quiet

I like my peace and quiet. After listening to my children sing the entire back catalogue of My Little Pony all day (Yes. They sing. Do not YouTube it.), I do appreciate the silence of my living room after 8 o’clock. It keeps me sane, and I like sane.

But on days like today, I feel as if we have been living in too much peace and quiet these last few years. We were invited to a new friend’s home, which was bustling with children and adult friends, and since I’m an enthusiastic person, I jumped right in and felt perfectly at home after the first cup of coffee. Everything I know from my own home happened there too, only on a bigger scale: Some kids were crying, some kids were singing, there was dancing and a lot of food, and three spectacularly unfazed cats. Not a normal afternoon by my standards, but a common occurrence in my friend’s house.

I only realized how much at home I had felt there when we drove back through the streets that still feel a bit alien to me. I am, in fact, far from home. Epiphanies of this kind always happen right after I’ve decided that I feel quite at home in England; I’m not sure if this kind of disconnect is a personal trait of mine or one common to immigrants. Maybe we are never quite sure how much we belong. Another realization came with it, though: Other people help us settle.

There’s only so much I can do, and although most of the time I want to do it all by myself, there are days when I miss having others around to drive out the quiet. Back home, I naturally had more friends and family, even if they weren’t always jumping on my sofa and eating cake with me. But it was a normal thing to invite and be invited back, to have routines and fixed dates. It’s hard to start again from scratch and make new friends, and even if you do, they will not be the kind of friends you grew up with. That’s not necessarily a bad thing — routines change, as they do in life, and friendship patterns shift. Creating a whole new social life for yourself is a task, but it’s also a great opportunity to open your life to new experiences and people your old life couldn’t even accommodate.

I’m a private person, and maybe too much so. We rarely have people around who are truly comfortable in our home, and who we are comfortable with. The house is small, and once a few things are not in their place, it becomes messy. My husband’s working hours mean he comes home to unwind for a bit and then goes to bed early. All these things are obstacles, or at least habits that’ll be hard to kick, and it might just not work for our family. But today, I desperately want to not care about any mess or cake stains on the floor. I want to truly look forward to one quiet evening, not have weeks and weeks of them in a row. I want to stop worrying about getting stuff done and be sure of company and someone to talk to. I want to push the kids’ toys into a corner a minute before midnight and fall into bed with my head still buzzing from conversations and silliness. Of course it can’t always be like that — there are school nights and bedtimes and early wake-up calls, and there is stuff to be done. There always is. But that’s only half a life, and the other half, the one that I should be enjoying, has been too quiet for too long.

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Schnazzy East German translator and cricket obsessive residing in England. I have other qualities, too.

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