As an adult, I have lived in nine cities in four countries. I feel the need to reinvent myself and getting a fresh start somewhere new has been instrumental in that process. That allowed me to discover who I really was by letting my walls down a little more every time I started out in a new place. Now, I feel a lot more comfortable with who I am and my aromantic identity has become a little more clear. Even though I no longer feel the need to lave what I know and start anew, I am often thinking if I could ever go back to any of the wonderful places where life took me to live again. Believe it or not, but before relocating to my current town, I felt anxiety when I would get a job interview for a position in my hometown.
Can I even face them?
I have so many bad memories of people I got to know and love abandoning me (in ways that felt violent to me most of the time) that I am not sure I could ever go back and have to face these people again. They would be part of my social ecosystem. I may see them around town. I know we have friends in common, etc. So, can I face these individuals? I am not sure. When I travel to somewhere I lived for a few days, I usually find a way to make it work. Often times, my friends will complain that they had no idea I was in town and they are frustrated and angry. I get it. I just find it difficult to broadcast my travel plans, because I am trying to avoid difficult confrontations and moments of deep sadness on my part. I prefer to keep my travel plans to myself, and instead encourage my closest friends to come to me. They seldom do, but of course some have!
Can my remaining relationship dynamics even survive my return?
This sounds strange. I know… Most of the time people will admit that it is difficult to maintain meaningful relationships when people live far away. While this is a valid concern, it certainly has not been my experience. Most of the relationships that are the most central in my life have become what they are once I left the city where we initially met. I can this of several examples (probably the majority). The thing is that when I only see people once a year, they often feel compelled to go the extra mile to spend quality time with me. They even usually accept to see me alone; without their romantic partner. They are willing to create adequate time and space for me in their lives while I am visiting. People living in my area tend to see me as nothing more than a fun extracurricular. On the other hand, people I stay in close contact with despite the distance will be willing to not treat me like an acquaintance or a second class citizen, but as a true friend. I fear that eliminating that distance would make the extra privileges (basic human needs to me) that I had been given like being able to see them without their romantic partners.
Is there even anyone left? #TheFunnel
I have been pretty miserable for most of my adult life, because of the fact that society and people are not conducive to aromanticism, tend to actively erase aromantic lives and experiences, and make it close to impossible for people who do not subscribe to amatonormativity to find any sort of meaningful relationshipsp. The only times where I felt like I was getting closer to a longer term solution, I was working on what I called The Funnel. Essentially, I had to invest paramount amounts of time and energy into constantly meeting other people and building emotionally salient bonds with them (independently from one another). If I was able to meet six new people every week, that meant that six people from The Funnel (people I had been seeing for some time) could abandon me (because I had found replacements). I know it sounds cold, but trust me… I do not do this because of a lack of emotions or ability to connect. It’s in fact quite the opposite. Anyhow, I am concerned that if I were to go back to one of the places where I have lived in the past (depending on size), it may be difficult to rebuild The Funnel. It is possible that I had, over the years, exhausted the pool of potential friends in a city based on what I was looking for. What if I went back to an area where I have lived in the past only to realize that there are not enough new people to meet to sustain a healthy Funnel. What then?
I sometimes wonder if other aromantics have felt the need to leave what/who they knew behind to start afresh. And, have they ever been able to go back. What did that look like? Personally, I find living in exile easier. It is sad to think that it is mostly, because of society’s inability to accept aromantics that I feel better in exile. I don’t think I would otherwise.