Expat realities: When you miss out

Today, my best friend is getting married. And I’m not there.

This is the girl who I met on the first day of university and have been living life alongside ever since.

We have been through all your standard university trials – studies, boys, diets, housemates…

This is one of the very first photos we took together. We really had those myspace angles down.

And beyond, into real grown up life stuff; house purchase and renovations, proper jobs and career choices, sickness, bereavement, hurts, joys, choices, regrets. You name it. I’d do anything for this girl. She stood right by me as I got married almost 7 years ago now.

And yet, I won’t be there for hers.

The decision not to take the trip back to attend was a really, really tough one. Ultimately it was just unaffordable for me – tickets to the UK from Australia aren’t cheap, and I’d have had to take a decent chunk of unpaid leave as I’m so new in my job. I also didn’t think I’d be allowed to take so much time off so soon after starting my new job; thanks for sponsoring me to come out here Employer, now I’m just going to nick off back home for 2-3 weeks, that’s fine yeah?

Still, after all those very rational reasons, it is my best friend’s wedding. There’s just no getting away from that.

At my 21st birthday party. The theme was R (I’ll give you 3 guesses why). I was Royalty, Jen was a Rudegirl – this is her actual personality which made it all the funnier

It’s three months since I moved away from the UK and this is the first major event I am missing out on. I know there will be more in the future. I know other friends will get married, I know friends will have babies. I am hoping that there will be no deaths, but experience tells me that is a futile wish.

As well as the big things, there will be the slightly smaller things. Birthday celebrations, life milestones like new jobs or new houses, family events, the church fete… It’s easy to get misty eyed about all the things I’m missing out on whilst forgetting the privileged position I am in. I am very aware that I have absolutely no right to whinge about missing out on things because I chose this life for myself. I am the one who chose to move away. Right?

We do have an emergency fund set aside with enough money in it for two last minute air fares, should the worst happen. But over the past few days and weeks I have been plagued with the guilt that perhaps I should have used that money to fly to the wedding. Despite my seemingly rational decision, I couldn’t help myself.

Unfortunately, sometimes you can’t rationalise your way out of emotions. I know it wasn’t possible for me to go, but I am still devastated to be missing out.

Fellow expats, what do you do to mark occasions back home that you’re missing out on? How do you decide what to go back for?

-Rachel

Happy wedding day beautiful girl; a lifetime of happiness to you both x x x x

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24 Comments

  1. 29th July 2017 / 16:45

    A difficult choice Rachel – I am going to miss my only child’s graduation next year and it is already weighing on my mind.

    Having money for emergency flights is a good idea. I have had to fly home once for my Grandfather’s funeral and that was so hard.

    Australia will be the furthest I have lived away from friends and family in the UK and it will not be easy to just jump on a plane – from South Africa it was half the distance to get back.

    I am hoping Skype and FaceTime and all the things we just didn’t have 20/30 years ago will make it easier though I am sure some things will still be difficult….

  2. 29th July 2017 / 16:48

    Sometime you don’t cope really, you just get on with the day-to-day and Skype them at some point (ideally during the ceremony) to join in!

  3. 29th July 2017 / 16:55

    I’m so sorry you had to miss your best friend’s wedding. One of my good friends just lost his grandfather and I felt terrible that I couldn’t be there. Another is going through a hard time. I do the best I can to communicate that I am always there for them on the phone, day or night. It’s tough to miss celebrations, too. Nick’s best friend got married a few months ago and we just could not attend as Nick was out to sea. I still haven’t figured out the best way to try to be a part of the things that I miss, honestly!

  4. 29th July 2017 / 17:24

    I missed one of my best friend’s wedding too because I was on a business trip at the time, a trip I just couldn’t turn down…I felt awful…

  5. 29th July 2017 / 21:48

    Oh it’s so hard. I went back for my best friend’s wedding but had to miss 2 other weddings I was supposed to be a bridesmaid in. And that was all the first couple months we were here. I just try and go about my regular day but sneak in a FaceTime before the big event.

  6. 30th July 2017 / 07:30

    I know how you feel, I’ve missed out on two of my closest friends getting married since I moved to the UK. Similar to your situation, the first one was just a couple of months after starting my job so I wasn’t able to get the time off. I always ask my friends and family to send me photos/videos from events I’m missing out on as its happening, and also Skype/FaceTime during the event if possible. If its a wedding and they have a videographer then its nice to sit down and watch the video with your friend next time you’re back home.

  7. Jen
    30th July 2017 / 11:36

    Sending lots of love your way! I know this had to be a tough decision to make. I had to make the same way not long ago and it was hard but for the best.

  8. Caitlin Jean
    30th July 2017 / 18:24

    You are right! As an expat there will be many more events that you’ll miss out on however, there will also be many more opportunities to share. Having missed my friend’s wedding after relocating from South Africa to Qatar, we made up for it by going on holiday together to Croatia. Celebrating one day versus creating memories over 2 weeks.
    Regarding missing out on family events and birthdays, I tend to purchase gifts from my travels to take back when I visit. (i.e when my niece was born I was in Jordan, so I have a handmade woven dolls to give her).

    Having an emergency fund is a great idea and you’ll know when to use it.

  9. 31st July 2017 / 01:01

    I totally get it. My best friend got married (twice on two different continents) and I couldn’t never attend. It is devastating. There’s no way to feel better about it sadly, just mourn that this isn’t your life anymore. And maybe there will be other moments! And best friend are best friend because thankfully time and distance doesn’t matter!

  10. 31st July 2017 / 02:01

    Ugh, I feel for you. I hate missing things in the US, and that’s far more doable than flying across the world. I do think it’s really smart to have an emergency fund for those plane tickets home though. That’s a fantastic expat tip to share.

    Hugs to you – I know it’s not easy, but I know your friendship with be the same regardless of whether you were physically there or not.

  11. 31st July 2017 / 13:20

    This can be said with living across the U.S. too. We’re from the east coast and we’ve lived on the west coast or toward the west coast for the last 8 years. We’ve missed a lot!
    When you start making decisions about when/who to go home for, it can be tricky. We’ve gone for holidays and vacations and I went for a funeral, but we’re making our first “random” trip for a wedding this fall. And we might do another next summer (if the stars align and we can get away).

  12. 31st July 2017 / 16:08

    It’s definitely not easy missing out on life events, but unfortunately as you just found out, it’s not feasible to go back for every occasion. SYD-LHR is same flying time SIN-JFK so yeah, I totally feel you on this!! It was so much easier when I lived in London!! It totally totally sucks to miss out, but your friend will understand (hopefully!). That’s a great idea to have an emergency travel fund and as you are more settled into expat life, you’ll start to know what events you’ll be able to make etc! But the first time to miss an event definitely stings the most. Big hugs. Love those pics from the past!

  13. 31st July 2017 / 16:11

    My sis also live in Oz and has had to make similar hard decisions. Its tough no way around that. Im sure she will understand though Im sure it doesn’t help with your guilt. Sending lots of positive thoughts your way. It does get better with time 🙂

  14. 31st July 2017 / 20:43

    I missed a cousin’s wedding and my aunt (her mother) still hasn’t forgiven me. I’m not sure she ever will.
    It is really, really tough during these times. Your heart is in one continent while your body is in another.
    You ask how us fellow expats make our own decisions. I think that you do have to almost eliminate the heart and emotions from those tough decisions and be practical and realistic. My personality as a whole is far from practical and realistic. So, it’s a tougher task than it sounds. I feel for you, my friend. Catch up soon!

  15. 31st July 2017 / 22:41

    Oh, Rachel. I wish I could give you a hug. This post made me tear up because I feel for you – I really do. I didn’t go to my best friend’s wedding in India and I regretted that so much, even though I just couldn’t. But, I am sure your friend understood/understands … and I am sure that her love for you is unconditional. Please don’t beat yourself up too much about it. Missing moments like these is so hard, and it’s part of our narrative as expats. Sending love.

    xo Jaime
    Angloyankophile

  16. 31st July 2017 / 22:50

    i get this. i get this even though i only moved to the other side of the country and “home” is only a 3 hour plane ride. sounds kinda silly for me to compare. but i know what its like to have your heart one place and body in another as erin said. i think about it often when i know i cant take off work (starting a new job, been there) and don’t have the time or funds. it’s hard but my true friends and fam always understand. 🙂

    xoxo cheshire kat

  17. 1st August 2017 / 05:43

    I’m so sorry that you’re missing your best friend’s wedding! I know that our friends that are stationed in Italy right now deal with the same type of guilt over not being able to be there for big life events. Not being an expat, I guess that the best advice I can give you is that at least there’s some pretty amazing technology out there so at least it’s easier to stay in contact with everybody! It wouldn’t be possible 10 years ago!

  18. 4th August 2017 / 09:50

    this is so hard. I went through a similar situation a few years back with one of my best friends. I was living on the complete other side of the country and couldn’t afford to travel back/get time off of work for her wedding. I woke up the day of the wedding and just started bawling. there’s definitely a give and a take with this type of lifestyle.

  19. 6th August 2017 / 07:49

    Such a hard decision to make – but I totally understand! We’ve had to miss out on quite a few things because we’re on the opposite side of the world to Jesse’s family and friends.

  20. 8th August 2017 / 04:09

    how did your best friend handle it?
    it’s a hard decision, and the first of many. i had a wedding come up in my first year when i was on a visa and wasn’t supposed to leave the country. the ‘friend’ was so mad, she hasn’t spoken to me since. obviously i hope your friendship was stronger than that, and i’m thinking it is? so she’ll understand. yes of course she’d want you there, but it is just a wedding day. you still support her marriage, her choice, her life, and that’s just as important as showing up on a specific day. i had ‘friends’ show up to my specific day who didn’t really support or agree with my choice and i’d rather their support vs their presence.
    but anyway! at the end of the day you can’t beat yourself up over this. something will happen while you are away from home and you’ll be glad you saved that money. it’s easy for me to say that though because my heart isn’t in this particular decision. i was a wreck when i almost went home to my mum. but it would have screwed up so many other things that i made the decision not to. sometimes it’s really hard to be practical over something so emotional.

  21. 8th August 2017 / 23:06

    That is so disappointing, but yes, that is the reality of being so far away. It’s kind of a trade off. You are getting a lot out of the experience, but there will always be things you miss out on. I’m sure she understands.

  22. 10th August 2017 / 02:43

    Such a tough choice – I’ve missed weddings, graduations and babies galore in four years. It’s definitely a combo of all the factors you mentioned in trying to work out what to go back for… but mainly how much leave / employer goodwill I have available!

  23. 12th August 2017 / 08:05

    Aww, I totally get you, and it’s such a horrible feeling. The amount of events I am missing out on just seems to be growing and I really try not to dwell on it as it can stir up all the wrong kind of emotions. I am glad we have all got each other who understand!

  24. 30th August 2017 / 14:24

    I can totally relate to the expat sadness/guilt of missing out and it’s so hard to get your head around feeling sad as, like you said, we chose this lifestyle. I wish I had something wise to say (I don’t) but at least we expats can take comfort in the knowledge we’re not alone in feeling this.

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