Friday, December 18, 2009

Trying to Fill the Void and Failing Miserably

I’m not superhuman. I used to think I was. In college I would brag about how I only went home twice a year and would someday live in China and only come back occasionally. I was grown up, or at least I was trying to give the impression. I wanted to show that I could thrive even without my mom, dad, siblings, and childhood friends. It’s inevitable for families and friends to disperse as the kids get older, but for some reason I wanted to speed this process up. I wanted to prove a point, and I don’t entirely know why. Maybe it’s because I’m independent. Maybe it’s because I’m from a small town. Maybe it’s because I didn’t make the basketball team in 8th grade.

But here in Mozambique, I realize how wrong I was. I think I heard a statistic somewhere that the Christmas season is when depression and suicide rates are highest. While I’m not depressed and certainly not going to kill myself, this makes sense to me right now. I’m doing my best to recreate the holiday season I miss so much. I’m rocking so much Christmas music that even my mom would be proud; I’m hosting and attending Christmas parties to mingle with other nostalgic Americans; and I’m staying faithful to my PTI podcasts so I can keep current on Tim Tebow crying and the Bowl season.

None of it works. Everything sends little reminders, but doesn’t recreate it. Christmas songs make me crave drives down the “Street of Lights” in our hometown, which my mom forced my brothers and me to go down but which I would give anything to see now. Emails with my college friends about plans for a Mardi Gras get-together brings me right back to senior year in the crowd of the Flaming Lips at Rites of Spring, with the rain and streamers floating down on all of us like confetti at the culmination of one last big hurrah. Even innocently watching Man City beat Arsenal in a Mozambiquean pub reminds me of high school, where I would sit in the freezing cold (okay, Florida freezing cold) and watch my high school buddies (oddly enough all soccer players) beat Bishop Kenny, or any of the other teams on their schedule.

What I’ve found to be semi-successful is to stay busy – physically, mentally, and socially. Every day I rise at 6:20 and pound out a 5-miler. At TechnoServe, I bury myself in my work, arriving to the office by 8:10am, leaving around 6pm, then coming home to work more. That’s if there’s no party going on. Holiday parties are frequent these days, and I haven’t decided if this helps or only aggravates it. But at the end of the day, these are people I barely know. Some of us are becoming good friends, but most of the relationships are fleeting, and when I leave Mozambique I’ll just be another guy to them and they’ll just be another bunch of acquaintances to me. These aren’t the people I really want to be spending my holidays with. Guess ole' Uncle Eddie will have to pull me through.


  1. Dear Rob,
    Hang in there! This will be a most memorable Chistmas....but there will be many more to which you are more accustomed! I know that your family misses you even more than you miss them.
    What an adventure you are having. And I doubt that you will ever be "just another guy" to folks in Mozambique or anywhere else.
    Warm Regards, Ann Neely

  2. P.S. Tim Tebow just cried because he was sad that VU did not get a bowl bid this year. He thinks we were one of the best teams he faced!

  3. Cody says...The Street of Lights is really crappy this year...not missing out on much, but I'm missing you.

  4. Bobby Dubs, I'm home for Christmas this year, but next year I won't be (I'll spend Xmas 2010 in your favorite country). So I don't know exactly what you're going through, but I'm bracing for it. And I can commiserate absolutely with that feeling you have that since your time in a place is brief, so your impact must be impermanent (i.e., if you'll be gone in two weeks regardless, how important can your work be in the interim?). It's important. Tell yourself that 1000 times if you have to, because it's true. And spending one Xmas away from home will only make the next one that much better when it comes. And don't forget, last but not least, that everyone who knows you is envious of your adventures. Keep it up, buddy, and keep watching that Cousin Eddie video--it's Xmas comedy gold.

  5. Merry Christmas Rob!!! We all miss you and will be thinking of you. Keep going out and having fun and new adventures. Megan

  6. Thanks for all the support everyone, definitely helps. And thanks to Mark for inspiring me with the Uncle Eddie.

    Keep the cider flowing,


  7. Woke up to 3 degrees this morning, Rob. Being in Minnesota for Christmas is certainly different from our usual Florida Christmas. We're having fun, but wishing you were the same time envying you. I remember spending a Christmas in Nepal and it's one of my fondest memories. Gramma says hi and sends her love.

  8. Rob,
    I spent Christmas in Guatemala by myself when I was in college - I know exactly what you are feeling - like one of your friends said earlier, as much as you miss us, rest assured that your family and many friends miss you more, and wish we could bring you home for a week. Don't worry about Tim Tebow and the Bowl games - As you may have heard, Tebow got the contract with Kleenex, and until there's a playoff system, who cares about the Bowls!

  9. Dear Rob, Here's sending you a very Merry Christmas from Nashville\Vanderbilt. I want you to know what an intresting world you have opened up to those of us fortunate enough to read your blog. Vanderbilt is not going bowling so just consider this a year off like them. Hang in there and know we are thinking of you and wishing you the best. Lola Fitzpatrick