I’ve been thinking a lot about transitional objects, wondering whether they can change and move, at will or according to circumstance. Since coming back, mine have become fluid and almost completely out of my grasp.
By its Freudian definition:
A comfort object, transitional object, or security blanket is an item used to provide psychological comfort, especially in unusual or unique situations.
At first I thought, well that’s me, because I’ve changed so much between leaving London and coming back from Melbourne a year later. But in fact, I’m starting to find that the transitional object is actually my friendships, here in London.
When I left the country, I was the friend who was leaving, and everyone wanted to see me before I went. Friends I hadn’t seen in months, work friends who I’d never quite managed to spend time with outside of work, and friends who were usually difficult to get a hold of. Excitement buzzed around me, in part because I had only given people about six weeks notice (because that was all I had) and so a countdown was afoot.
I felt loved and like I would be missed. This wasn’t a falsehood; people really were sad I was leaving and I was sad to leave them, but also excited. We made plans to keep in touch and do better now that I was moving to the other side of the world. I had never had so many social outings in such a short period of time before, and I was really feeling myself then. I remember thinking,
Wow, I really have a good group of friends.
I was overusing the word ‘group’ – they were a group to me as it pertains to how many of them there were, but they didn’t present as a group because many of them didn’t know each other. Still, in my mind they stood as a bunch of people, crowded together and waving me off; people I was very fond of.
And that’s the warm and fuzzy feeling I left with, and the feeling I felt a painful pull towards when I had a small downward spell in my mental health, at approximately month five of being away. I wished I could be near them, because they knew me so well and for so long, and I hadn’t gotten there with my Aussie friends yet. I held on to the memory of their goodbye as my transitional object, one that I could reach to for comfort whenever I wanted.
But slowly, time went on and I realised I wanted to stay in Melbourne, at least for the foreseeable future. I put things in motion, went through the emotional rollercoaster of thinking about what I’d be giving up if I stayed in Melbourne; all those wonderful, longtime buddies of mine. Granted, I hadn’t remained in touch with all of them, but that was to be expected.
Eventually the powers that be left me hanging in indecision and my current visa was due to run out, so I made plans to return. I psyched myself up, remembering why I loved London, how excited my friends would be when I returned, what fun London-like things we would do when I got back.
And then I got back and it wasn’t so. I messaged people, let them know I was back, many excited conversations ensued, and but for a couple of my nearest and dearest, meeting up with people went back to being a thing I had to plan months in advance. Sucked up in what I’ve been calling “the London fog”, people were hard to reach again. Only this time, I wasn’t used to it and I didn’t understand it.
Weren’t we so close just before I left? Weren’t we both so excited I was coming back? Was I wrong to assume I could just slip back into everyone else’s routine, especially now that I didn’t have my own?
Like a lost sheep, I questioned for weeks what I already knew to be true: things had changed, I had changed, and my transitional object was (ironically) changed as well. My close friendships now existed ten thousand miles away, and back home I was a stranger in a land I knew like the back of my hand.
I was dramatically in my feelings about it all for a while, spurred on by the distance I felt between myself and my closest friend, aware that I was the one making most of the changes, trying desperately to catch up. And then one day, after talking to a friend who also lived overseas, I realised why I felt the absence of my London friends so starkly.
It had always been this way – I was never seeing people regularly when I lived here, we always had to book time in together weeks, sometimes months in advance. The difference was that I used to be as busy as them, as stressed about London life and struggling to pay the bills just so I could remain in the city. And I wasn’t doing that anymore, so it felt different. Plus, I had only the memory of me leaving; a snapshot in time that brought everyone together, that would not have happened in regular circumstances.
Now I was back to routine and I was learning something new every day. One day I learned that I had changed an awful lot, and there were some old friends that I wasn’t going to vibe with anymore. I learned that other people’s lives had moved on, some had moved away, were getting married, buying houses or all three. The only life I fit into now was my own, and even that felt surreal.
The truth stared back at me as I walked through the streets of London, retracing the lonely poets path I used to love, the one accompanied by misery. But I wasn’t that person anymore; I no longer revelled in having sad eyes and hosting melancholy. I had a life and had reclaimed my love of dancing and travelling to new places. And now my transitional objects all resided in Australia.
The place I’m still trying to get back to.
Image credit: Teddy Bear by Stefania Servidio from the Noun Project