Something’s Missing: Saudade and Sehnsucht

In my 6 month Abu Dhabi update, I admitted to having a major meltdown and battling depression. This post is my attempt at deciphering why this shit keeps happening to me and how to overcome it. 

What I feel is beyond homesickness. I am longing for something  and/or someone missing. Koreans call it keurium (그리움), but what I feel is so much more. It’s a deep yearning and aching desire. The Portuguese have a beautiful word to perfectly describe my ailment – saudadeThe Germans also have a word for it, sehnsuchtI’m struggling with the love that remains, the love that is away, and the yearning for ideal or alternative experiences. Here’s why…

The love that remains or stays behind.

I left some really great people behind in the USA. My immediate family is going through a difficult transition due to health and financial circumstances and I don’t know how to support them from a distance. Speaking of distance…. I really miss Mr. Glitter. maintaining a healthy relationship over such a long distance is extremely difficult. Should we admit defeat and table this until we can be closer to one another? Should we weather this shitstorm and figure out a way to overcome the distance and its associated challenges?

The love that is away.

Being the one to go away is a peculiar situation. I try to keep in touch with my friends and family because I love them, value having relationships with them and miss them when we’re apart. A few people told me that it was difficult to keep in contact with me while I was abroad the last time because they couldn’t figure out how to call or text me via my Korean mobile number. Before I left for Abu Dhabi, I paid for a US Skype number and gave it to my friends and family so they could call and message me for free. You want to know how many people regularly did so? Waahid (one)! My (bio)Dad, bless his heart, faithfully called me fiddyleven times a day for weeks. Recall that this is the same man with whom I still have a somewhat estranged relationship.  And though he often got the time zone thing wrong by calling when I was asleep or at work, I’ve got to give credit where it’s due. He called while others who I (thought I) was closer to did not. I eventually cancelled the number after 3 months and opted to call home using my UAE mobile instead.

That’s how it goes… If I want to stay connected to what’s going on at home, I have to be the one to initiate contact. I have sent texts, emails and snail mail, and made phone calls that have sometimes gone unanswered or unacknowledged. Very few people have ever called, FaceTimed, iMessaged, KakaoTalked, WhatsApped, emailed, or Skyped to genuinely check on me. I have initiated video chat sessions so that they would be at convenient times for others even though it wasn’t the most convenient time for me. Let me tell you, that shit gets really old. This is probably the point where some of my friends and family reading this may start to feel some type of way about what I’ve just said. That’s fine. They’re allowed. I understand. People have their own lives and their own issues to deal with that may prevent them from keeping in touch as much as they/I want. The larger point here, however, cannot be ignored: there needs to be reciprocity. It can’t always be on me to initiate contact. If someone is not willing to reach out to me or can’t find the time to make themselves available when I reach out to them, then I can only surmise that they don’t value maintaining a relationship with me when we’re apart (or together). Frankly, it hurts to realize you’re not valued by people you love. To that end, I am in the process of slowly fading to black and transitioning to simply sending some folks love and light from afar.

The yearning for ideal or alternative experiences.

I am grateful for a position in my field that is helping me achieve many of my personal and professional goals, but my job is very stressful when it really doesn’t need to be. Some of that stress comes from the delicate nature of navigating different cultures. Some of it comes from navigating the culture of this particular institution. Some of it comes from the difficulty I have working with people who have hidden agendas and fail to truly embrace the spirit of collaboration. Some of it comes from the pressures of being on the “publish or perish” track when I don’t place a high value on either of those options. Something has got to give and soon.

My job allows me to be in a place where I have the opportunity to experience many wonderful things. These experiences have been great solo, but there have been more times than my independent ass is comfortable admitting when I want to have these experiences with someone who is important to me. I wonder, what would my life be like here with a partner or a family? For now, it’s just me, myself, and I. That means I can freely get up and go without consulting anyone else, which is nice, but I often feel alone (lonely?) and disconnected from the world around me.

I’m yearning for a sense of belonging. I don’t feel like I fit in anywhere. I’m a foreigner in the UAE and have felt somewhat foreign in the USA since living abroad. I’m not like many of my colleagues who are older, married and/or have families in tow, and are in the latter years of an already established career. When it comes to other young, single expats with large amounts of disposable income I’ve met, I can’t keep up with the constant party hard lifestyle many live – though I do try my best to hang occasionally. I’m the jet-setter in my family, but in my Tribe family, I’m far from it. I love to travel, but I’m not the type to collect passport stamps on the weekends or on every single leave window I have at work. I’m happy being who I am – the person that is always somewhere between the extremes. I know there have to be more people like me who are wandering in the middle. I am still looking for my tribe – my people. The ones who totally get me.

For better or worse, Abu Dhabi is home for me right now. Six months here and I’m currently a hot ass mess, but very much still a work in progress. I’ve been told that the first year here is the hardest. If that’s true and the next 6 months are anything like the first 6 months, then I’m ready to fast forward so I can get to the good part. Two reflective posts later and I’ve figured out the what and some of why behind the things that are bothering me, but not how to fix it or successfully cope. So, now what?

I’m afraid I’m in over my head.  It’s time to seek professional help to tackle this once and for all.

therapy humour

Wish me luck…



8 thoughts on “Something’s Missing: Saudade and Sehnsucht

  1. This is on a MUCH smaller scale, but I had similar feelings when I moved to Houston. I really didn’t belong anywhere and couldn’t find my tribe. I tried a long distance relationship and that didn’t work. While I traveled home often, I realized that I needed regular interaction with loved ones.

    I’m praying for you.

    • Thank you, love. Not much smaller or different at all. The basic premise of longing to belong and feel loved by familiars is the same. What solution did you find to get you through it?

      • I moved back to Atlanta LOL. The funny thing is, I didn’t even realize how bad it was until one of my BFFs called one day and out of nowhere she said “I feel like you’re depressed” I was driving and immediately broke down crying. That’s when I realized something was wrong. Shortly after, I received a call about a job in Atlanta

  2. To add onto what the above poster said, your feelings, while you may be in a unique living/environment situation, are quite normal for a woman of your age, regardless of what living situation she may be in. Turning inward and being reflective, and finding the answers within yourself may help somewhat as you ponder this thing call life. And, believe me, the communication problems, etc. only get worse as people begin to have families and put more into their career and families. But, if this is a common problem for you, or a common situation you’ve found yourself in, the solution has to begin/start with you. I’ve had to knock myself down with honest, brutal truth before I picked myself up, only to be knocked back down again lol! But, when one starts taking a honest, hard look at things, you’ll begin to find the answers and build a life you want and love. Not saying that you don’t love/like your life, but, by reading this post, there are some conflicting messages in it. Yeah, maybe I am offering up too much “advice,” but I do think, through the help of God and self, we have all the answers…

    • “Not saying that you don’t love/like your life, but, by reading this post, there are some conflicting messages in it.”

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. I like/love aspects of my life: AUH is pretty amazing, financial stability, a lovely home, travel opportunities, beginning a career in my field, people who love me, etc. And then there are aspects I don’t like/love about my life: my constant struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle, my inability to properly cope with challenges, my desire to have my (or start a) family with me here in this place.

      As you said, this begins with me and I’m sure having a little help navigating some of my issues would also be beneficial.

  3. I’m so glad you’re writing about what’s happening. Like really glad. I commend you for traveling the way you do but I imagine it’s not easy. Not one bit. And like the other comment, I too felt a lot of that when I moved to Houston. Shoot I still go through some of it. I’d say pray about it but I know that sometimes that’s just not enough. So I’m going to send you positive thoughts and well wishes that this next 6 months go by with minimal stress . And we can always discuss randomness on twitter so you can get some people interaction. (^__^)

    • Hehe! I so enjoy our little twitter chats. Thank you for the positivity. I’ll take all I can get. It’s never easy relocating it seems. What have you been doing in Houston to help you get over those feelings?

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