When I first lived abroad, the thought of being so far away from family and friends used to scare me. I used to do what any mature adult would do…bury my head in the sand and deliberately not think about it. But as time has moved on, and as I’ve set up my life here in Madrid, not only have I stopped pretending that the distance doesn’t exist, I’ve actually realised that it doesn’t need to be scary at all.
As the saying goes, distance makes the heart grow fonder, and I’m starting to accept that’s true. That maybe distance isn’t an “enemy” after all, but in fact a “friend” that stops you taking for granted what’s right under your nose and makes you appreciate everything that little bit more.
I’ve lived in Madrid for 4 years, equating to about a third of my adult life – a pretty considerable amount of time I’m sure you’ll agree – yet I’ve just spent the whole month of August back at home in Scotland and somehow it felt like I’d never been away. Yes, I’m different, my family and friends are different (there’s definitely more babies than there used to be!) and when it boils down to it, life has simply moved on. But somehow, I felt as close to my family and friends (and bonnie Scotland) as ever.
Now you don’t just magically keep close to people unless you make the effort, so admittedly a large part of feeling like I’d never been away is probably down to both me and them putting in the effort to maintain friendships and relationships. In that sense I’m extremely lucky. Because let’s face it, there’s nothing more frustrating than being far away and not being able to simply pop round to someone’s house to say a quick hello. But as much as putting in the effort of endless WhatsApp calls, Facetimes, and Zooms is sometimes exasperating for all involved, it’s so, so worth it. Or at least I think so!
Yet something I always get asked is how I can be bothered making so much effort to stay in touch with everyone back home if I have a whole host of new friends in Madrid too. But for me the answer’s easy: because that’s who I am and that’s what’s important to me. At the risk of sounding super sentimental, my friends and family are everything to me, no matter where they are in the world or how long I’ve known them. You know that saying “dogs are for life, they aren’t just for Christmas”? Well that’s applicable to me too…once I’m in your life, I’m almost impossible to get rid of! And I’m not even sorry!
When I’m in Spain I miss Scotland and all my loved ones there. Yet when I was in Scotland, I missed Madrid, the life I’ve built there and, most importantly, all the people in it. At the end of the day, “distance makes the heart grow fonder” is fundamentally the same concept as nostalgia. The only obvious difference being it separates you from people and places by physical space, in my case 1500 miles, as opposed to time. You long for something you no longer have at that moment in time. And if that warm, fuzzy feeling where I think back fondly to old times when I was a kid can convince me that scrunchies should come back into fashion, or that sitting exams at school truly were the good old days, then it must be powerful stuff.
So powerful in fact that this time, for the first time after any trip home, I had a “wee greet” to myself (as us Scots would say – “a cry” for the rest of the world) when I got on the plane at Edinburgh airport, ready to head back to Madrid. Not because I was sad to leave Scotland, and certainly not because I didn’t want to go back to Madrid, but because my little heart was just so full. Again, I’m risking sounding far too sentimental for my own good, but I realised how lucky I am to have had the best time at home catching up with loved ones, even meeting a couple of new faces along the way, and yet to be heading back to Madrid to catch up with even more friends and to get settled back into a life I’ve spent the past 4 years creating exactly how I want it to be.
So there we have it. Distance has become my friend over the past few years, giving me the chance to appreciate everything I have back home while exploring and enjoying millions of new opportunities at the same time. Or at least I’d like to think that’s what the 1500 miles has helped me to achieve. But by the sounds of this blog post, maybe the only thing distance has achieved is that I’m soppier than ever….who knows!