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What makes you feel complete? (aka, when you feel lonely in a foreign country)

Carlotta Cerri

The other day, I was watching Oliver and Emily play at the playground, and I realised something that made me think: I rarely do it.

I’m with them all the time, yet I rarely just sit and watch them back at home. I’m always having a chat with mom friends, or working at my laptop while they play in the kid area, or I’m on my phone getting some Facebook and Instagram work done.

That day, I saw how much Oliver involves Emily in his games, how much he calls her to go here and there, how he helps her go up the hardest bits, how he looks for her when other kids join the playground.

I noticed how Emily is more independent in her playing, that if there’s water and sand involved she can play happily for hours, how she always goes to Oliver if he calls her, how she tries to do everything he does without getting frustrated if she can’t or if I don’t respond to her calling me.

The list goes on.

Living a new country (we’re staying in East Canada for this summer 2018) while doing normal life — working routine, babysitters, spending lots of time by myself with the kids — is beautiful. It’s made me realise how much I love traveling, and how much I want to go more and more towards a minimalistic and nomadic lifestyle.

While I appreciate spending more quality time with the kids and Alex, though, it can also be extremely lonely. When you don’t know anybody at the playground to chat with; when you don’t have friends yet to go out for a coffee; when you struggle calling your friends back home because the different time zone makes it hard to coincide.

But I also found out that being lonely is a trigger for self-analysis. Loneliness is a powerful feeling — one that I hadn’t felt in years and one I never particularly liked — and it works in different ways for different people. For me, it made me realise three things:

  • I’m very picky when it comes to friends, and I actually prefer being alone than having meaningless friendships. Also, I can count the friends I miss on the fingers on one hand.
  • When you have kids, though, friends sometimes ensure your own survival. Loneliness can also force you to find creative ways and get out of your comfort zone in order to build potential friendships. After the first week — when I noticed that a chit-chat at the playground wasn’t enough — I went to print business cards and when I now see that Oliver connects with another child, I give his parents my business card to try and meet again (which is also good publicity for my blog, two birds with one stone!).
  • As soon as I started my dance classes here (after 10 days of being in Montreal) I felt an immediate sense of relief from loneliness. I felt complete again, at home. From now on, every time I temporarily move to another city, finding a dance studio will be a top priority.

Feeling whole. I guess for me that’s what makes me feel at home. When you feel incomplete, there’s no place in the world you can call home, and for me all it took was to ask myself one question, “What makes me feel complete?”. My family, my blog and my dancing is what defines me and makes me feel at home in myself.

Don’t get me wrong, though. Loneliness (real, or perceived) is no fun. But even if you’re a social being like me, feeling lonely isn’t necessarily bad. Embrace it for as long as you feel comfortable with it; then get creative, burst your bubble, take initiative, and use it as a tool to understand what makes you feel complete.

Because sometimes the fix is just a dance studio away.

PS. The same day I wrote this post, I was walking down the street with the kids and I heard my name. It was a girl I had met the week before who wanted to say hi. A simple gesture, a casual and spontaneous hand wave that immediately fed my sense of belonging to this beautiful city. At the of the day, it’s always the little things…

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