It is interesting how much you learn about yourself when you’re least expecting it. Right now I am homesick as hell, and feel a bit like I could easily just jump in the car, drive home, and start all over again. And sometimes, I can’t help but think I have made a horrible mistake by dragging my family to a small town, a small office and a job that..sometimes…I don’t know that I committed to anymore. I feel like I have forfeited all my chances of promotion into a policy job, its really hard to make friends and the work is hard. Actually, hard doesn’t do it justice. It’s painful sometimes. For weeks I have been thinking “what does this mean?”, “why can’t I commit to this job?”. Well, in part, its because I took a huge risk — jumping into a field that is different to what I am used to — but part of it is around me and my broader search for meaning. And I found it in the most unlikely of places.
I watched eLove on the Lifestyle channel last night, which is a reality show cum documentary about internet love. A divorced American Policeman had been chatting to an English woman for over a year. He had told her “I love you”, they had phone conversations, they had shared photos and webcams, emailed back and forth, chatted, talked obsessively about each other to their friends… well, you get the picture. Then, this eLove show comes along, pays for her to go to New York to meet him…with sexy results. OK, no sexy results, but that’s just a lame thing I say 😉
Anyway, despite this electronic barrage of intimate secret sharing, joking, and mutual “I Love You” sessions, the American policeman ended up not only rejecting the pommie lady, but he CUT THE DATE SHORT! Now, this could be a reflection of his personality (I mean, NY Policeman: read moustache, chewing gum and a loud mouth — a walking stereotype), or it could be a broader comment around human nature.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a very interesting blog if I just called him a jerk, so of course I am going to say that it is something bigger than that. It is about fantasy and reality, and how we always want what we can’t have.
Internet relationships are a little like the fantasy of living and working in a small town. You build up this fantasy of how different life would be if you were away, or if this person you had fantasised about were with you. You create a magical place, where you can relax, socialise effortlessly, and run through daisies in a meadow.
And then you do it. You decide to turn this fantasy into reality. And that reality is nothing like you thought it would be. It is the day-to-day, warts and all, experience of what you had conjured up in your head. If you had experienced this without the fantasy, it wouldn’t be a disappointment — it would just be life. But, because you’ve dreamt about it for a long time, often because of a desire to escape this bitch called reality, it will never, EVER live up to the glossy images.
It’s a bit like holidays. You pour over the glossy magazines of white sandy beaches and cafés, but when you get there, you realise that there is gastro, homelessness and human suffering outside the cosy confines of the resort. Internet relationships are exactly the same. No matter how honest particpants profess to be with each other, you are still only seeing the magazine article. You are not hearing the loudmouth policeman, or smelling the bad breath in the morning, or having to deal with that person rolling their eyes when you speak.
And in Esperance, despite its physical beauty, there is an undercurrent of religious zeal, homelessness, depression, cliquey-ness and cold. Lots of cold. The reality is just far too much. Then you start to yearn for the days where life was better: the warm fuzzy feeling you got when you were in-a-relationship-with-no-human-contact, writing nice notes and having heartfelt discussions. And you were only dreaming about moving to the country, but still living a life you like.
On eLove, they pommie chick and the policeman managed to salvage their friendship via email, but it will never be the same. Most of these come-crashing-down-to-reality experiences change you at your core. Part of it is growing up and realise that you cannot escape the reality of life, and part of it is the disappointment associated with it.
I will go home to the city soon, having learnt that maybe I made a huge mistake. But, on the other hand, I can take some relief in the fact that if I didn’t experience it, I would never have learned that real life isn’t so bad.