I’ve moved to the US a year ago, and it has been an exceptionally challenging transition. It wasn’t just your ordinary move between countries, which in itself is traumatizing enough, but it was so much more than that. I arrived to the US deeply depressed, and I didn’t think anyone could understand.
Everything called for a fresh start.
Fresh out of high school in Bahrain, a lazy island in the Persian Gulf, I started my college education in Texas. It wasn’t the first time I had moved countries, but it was the first time I did it alone. I had 100% control. I loved being able to define myself without any baggage. Or at least, that’ s what I thought.
I’ve always fantasized about being a stranger in a foreign land. Re-inventing myself. Being whatever the fuck I wanted. I really like that idea, possibly because I’ve always seen myself as an outsider wherever I lived. I have never lived in a country where I am a citizen. This allowed me to maintain an observer status. I identified with everyone and no one. Nevertheless, I like finding myself in a new unknown environment.
Of course, as I get older the less revolutionary the new version of myself becomes. It become less of a revolution and more of a gradual evolution. This moved was different in that I discovered that even without roots, I still couldn’t bring all of me over. I felt stuck in my past. This was a new problem I haven’t had in the many other times I’ve moved countries.
I suspect technology is a culprit. After all, I remember a time when landlines were the only types of phones there were. Maybe not rotary dial phones.. but still :)
Technology has brought us together closer. I could talk to anyone anywhere any time. Everyone is reachable at all times. Physical proximity is only a challenge because of timezones. It should all be a good thing.
But this time, I was stuck.
WhatsApp is probably the world’s most popular texting choice. And within it, I lived; for months. The pandemic didn’t help either, but that’s just a crutch. The truth is, it was more comfortable to go on any group and talk about nothings with people I knew.
I’ve tried to peel myself away, but I lacked the will power to control my impulses. Not only did I want to chat with everyone, I was super chatty. I was that annoying guy in the group chat who just wouldn’t stop talking. Everyone had a life to live, but I didn’t. That’s where I was living. I knew something had to change.
I deleted WhatsApp. Let me tell you, this isn’t all that easier than quitting tobacco. I had to get my shit together before I can go back and socialize with friends from my past life. Past life, not present.
What happened next was unexpected. Some friends started reaching out to me on the many other channels I’m available on. I am not technology averse. I simply had a problem that required quitting cold turkey. I’m on Twitter, Instagram and even Facebook (although I only use that for managing business Pages). I got more video calls in a week than I’ve had in 2 months.
Then it all stopped. I got even more depressed, but I resisted going back. I knew I had to rip off the bandaid. As time passed, it slowly started feeling like the past is behind me. I became occupied with things here. I had to fill my time and I put it all in work.
Forced to create new connections, I was able to live in my present again. It took a lot of work and will power to power through this uncomfortable phase. But such moves are so much easier on the people you leave behind than the mover. Their lives are only mildly affected by your absence, if at all. Yours is turned upside down.
I eventually felt comfortable enough in my here, and re-installed WhatsApp again. It took me about 3 months to detox, but it was worth it. I can now run the app on my phone and not wonder when they’ll wake up on the other side of the earth to start chatting!