When I was Ms12’s age, I lived in London. Christmas was a magical experience – a cold and twinkly world, plunged into darkness at 4pm. Nothing like Australia, where we ran barefoot outside in the back yard after dinner and played in the sand-pit till bedtime.
When we lived in London, my mother wrote letters home to her mum on Sunday afternoons. Almost every week, I’d say, for three-and-a-half years.
Now I’m a mother and I live on the other side of the world, far from family and (a good deal of our) friends. But instead of having to wait for that first letter of the year to arrive, New Year’s Day starts on December 31st at 2pm, when the text messages start coming in from Oz. “Happy New Year!” “Woohoo!”
It makes for a schizophrenic life when you have the option to call or send an SMS or an email at any time of day or night and know that you’ll probably receive a reply within 12 hours.
I’m always aware of time differences. I imagine (and hear about) the goings-on in another country – or hemisphere – at random intervals during the day. While I watch snow falling out the living-room window, I know my friends and family back ‘home’ are heading for the beach, hiding in the air-conditioning, or gathering at the local pool for BBQs and picnics. While we are indoors by 5pm, my sister-in-law’s kids are out playing in the back yard until 8 or 9… or until the mosquitoes drive them indoors. I see the photos on Facebook.
I have a dear friend who just moved to Silicon Valley with her partner and three kids. It was a sad goodbye for me, but I added her to a growing list of absent people of whom I’m somehow always a little bit aware. I’m aware that she’ll be awake now, for instance (If I look I’ll see her little green Android on Google Chat), but she won’t be awake when I get up in the morning. Just as I know that my mum will be awake shortly, and my dad is probably already up. (And my kids should be asleep by now but aren’t.)
If there’s one thing I’ve been contemplating at the beginning of this new year, it’s that it takes some skill to be able to navigate a world of instant and perpetual connections.
It also takes some wisdom. I hope I can find that wisdom: to be there for friends if they need me – whichever hemisphere – but to be present in my own life, and to be with those around me 100%.