It's Easier to Feel Disconnected In A Foreign Country

"I'm crazy for feeling so lonely, I'm crazy for feeling so blue," sings Patsy Cline on my tiny netbook.

Not so in Mexico City. Nothing could be more natural than to feel blue. It's one of the most beautiful parts about living here.

In Toronto, I was constantly plagued by anxiety because I didn't feel fully integrated in the city. I'd sit in Trinity Bellwoods park and wonder why I couldn't be more be more like the hipsters, sprawled like mewling kittens en masse in the scraggly grass. 

Or I'd spend a Friday night in, wondering why I didn't have plans at some cocktail lounge, to be followed by debauchery at an after-hours club and retribution at a greasy spoon in Chinatown. I wondered if my purse was quite right, if my way of phrasing things was appropriately casual-sounding, if I was being invited to the right functions or if I was being left off the list.

It sounds ridiculous, but the perennial feeling of strangeness and dislocation in a city that was supposed to be my "home" drove me crazy. I wondered what was wrong with me that I felt so alienated. I celebrated every move towards integration--a new love affair, a really debauched night out, entrance into a new circle of friends--and yet was constantly anticipating the gaps between this incidences of connection.

When I moved to Mexico City six weeks ago I felt the exact same sense of  disassociation. Great, I thought. Perfect. Finally, this feeling which has haunted me for so long can be explained as par for the course. I am a normal human being in this situation.

I found it very difficult in Toronto to meet people outside of my social circle. Here, people want to get to know me exactly because I am different. At home, I was constantly obsessed about the quality of my social calendar. Here, it's expected that I'm still finding my feet socially. 

In Toronto, I lived in a particular milieu that was supposed to be an approximation of my highest needs--intellectual stimulation, excellent food, cultured and witty people, professional opportunity, quality consumer goods. In Mexico City, nothing is familiar; I do not feel the rub of a life supposedly well-tailored and so I am more content.

And yet, this feeling is also a reminder that I have allowed a certain level of discontent in my life. Last week I wrote about feeling utterly disconnected. This is normal in a foreign country but the degree is really quite extreme. Living here has thrown into relief how unhappy I have allowed myself to be, thinking that it was my natural state. In Mexico City it may be so, but not to this degree.

I have been reminded that it is my job to take better care of myself and that while the bottom of the well is familiar, it is not particularly conductive towards well-being.

In Toronto I thought that if I couldn't be happy, at least I could be productive. Now that I have moved to a new country and seen more clearly exactly how I am, I am worried about how off-track this thinking got me. It's time to recharge and allow a new way of living to flourish. The challenge is, can I allow myself this supposed luxury?


Harith said...

I know exactly how you feel. I moved to Toronto in April, not knowing anybody and feeling very apart from everyone and everything. I was also dealing from a breakup.

I don't have any anxieties about having to be like "one of them", or going out to some gathering. I'm an introvert, so stuff like that comes easy to me, but I do crave some good social interaction full of meaning and deeper purpose. That's where I had a problem. I remember going on dates and spending most of my time talking about really deep shit instead of trying to enjoy the dates.

Today I'm doing better. I go to small meetups for movies and such and trying to find activities and people with whom I can relate with. I don't feel desperate on a Friday night sitting alone at home when I could be hitting up one of the numerous clubs in Toronto. While I do wish I had a small, tight circle of folks I could hang with here, I do find a peacefulness and joy in my solitude. Note that it's solitude, not loneliness.

I've been reading your blog for a while, so thanks for writing this entry. Hope all is well in Mexico.

ru said...

This is the part about Toronto whcih I feel the same: "I found it very difficult in Toronto to meet people outside of my social circle. .. At home, I was constantly obsessed about the quality of my social calendar. Here, it's expected that I'm still finding my feet socially."

Despite doing many many things and having tried many many things in Toronto, something still feels missing. A part of is not complete without one last crazy hurrah.

So, it is very encouraging to see someone else doing what I have always wanted to do: move away because you just wanted to and it will be good for personal growth. The day-to-day living is tiring.

I'm planning to move away too, to learn a new language would be nice.

B.Kienapple said...

Hi ru, thanks for your comment. I would never have felt complete if I'd stayed in Toronto and just continued living the same life. I would have been dogged by the feeling "as if." I think that feeling takes a far greater toll on a person than the initial terror of moving to a new place. Anyway, keep me posted on what you decide on! I really hope you get to have the adventure of living somewhere else, it really is so important. And I recommend taking language lessons beforehand, it helped me so much! Cheers, Bronwyn

B.Kienapple said...

Haha I meant "what if" not "as if." Oops.

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