First off, I feel a disclaimer would be in order. I do not have regrets and this is just a bit of a reflection. So, with that out of the way, let’s get the show on the road.
I am not special. If anything, I actually feel slightly less than average most of the time. What I do feel that I did that was extraordinary, is the fact that I “flew the nest” at 18. I left the comfort of my home at 19, seeking my own fortune in the world. A bit later, at 23, I again left for a new life with ixianvanguard (The Indre) in her native land. From here, slowly but surely, everything turned as normal as it could: job, place to stay, the whole nine yards. But one thing has remained a constant: I am the foreigner.
It’s quite an odd place to be. I consider myself a social animal, but for some really odd reason, keeping proper social contact has always been an issue. I always tend to fade in and out of other people’s lives. I come in, do my thing, then take my leave. This was perfectly encapsulated in a flatmate’s statement, not that long ago: “I feel that one day I will wake up, ask someone about you, and then to be looked at weird, telling me you never existed”. I am paraphrasing of course, but the essence is the same: Even to the people around, I tend to be a ghostly apparition, never sure if truly there or not. Only in hindsight did I actually give weight to this.
I am not a foreigner by simply “not being from around”, but from “not being around”. In my quite narrow world view, humans carve out and occupy quite rigid places inside the pack, or as it is commonly referred to, society. And it’s interesting to see how this big “pack” is made of smaller and smaller ones. I for one cannot say I found “my pack”. In school, it was me and what was then my best friend that were the class weirdos. In high school, I was one of the geeks, although that is when I started marching to the sound of my own drum. After leaving home, and officially becoming “the foreigner”, I became one of the stoners. But I never managed to keep in touch. The ability to keep social contact has so far eluded me.
Although we live in the age of social media, I have never felt so disconnected from the people that post about their achievements, or the simply obnoxious amount of holiday pictures. If I am going to want to talk to someone about very basic, and quite banal “what’s up, how are you” conversations, there is no more real need for that. I already know you are with your disgustingly selfish girlfriend in Indonesia, that two months ago you felt #blessed for your promotion. The people around you already know about the bitch cancelling a group travel because she had a shit fit about something, or that you were staring unemployment in the face when you fucked up bad at work. So, why wouldn’t I be the “social media ghost”?
Being a foreigner is ultimately a choice, and like with most choices, there are ways to turn back the outcome. The only difference here is that if I turn and run back, I would only admit that the world has defeated me. From that point, I would stop being a foreigner. I would have become a “traveler”.