Years of being in long-distance relationship with my close ties while having a strong need for intimacy has frequently led me to reflect on being disconnected. In the age of constant mediated connection, disconnectivity might very well be a sign of longing for more meaningful, bodily contact.
When people learn about the “story of my life”, they always ask – very understandably – if I don’t miss my family and my home country. I just casually reply that I get used to it. If I say so, no further explanation is needed. But of course it’s more complicated and ambiguous than that. I only know that talking about it and sinking in nostalgia don’t help because it’s not gonna change anything. What matters is how to cope with it. At the same time, I’m not a rational and positive person who leads her life with efficiency. I do miss everything. But it’s just not as simple as saying “Oh I miss my dog so much, can’t wait to get home”. Or writing long facebook posts on special occasions. It’s a big deal to me. Conventional ways of expressing emotions are not fulfilling enough.
I just think about all this today, how I feel about my life, when I come across a photo of the light switches that I took back at home in summer. I can’t remember what was so fascinating about them that I had to immortalize them. But the switch is quite a good metaphor. Let’s say that my life as a whole has a control board with many switches; each gives access to a singular life among my many lives that is attached to a specific location, a specific period of time, specific people and so on. Each time I leave a place, I just switch it off the same way I turn off the light when leaving a room. It will still be there, intact, autonomous, ready to be re-activated at any time, only I will not look back into it while I’m away. I will not have a security camera installed inside the room to occasionally check in from a distance. That means I will not call my parents everyday or Skype with them every week, I will not share every instant of my life, every activity, every meal, every acquaintance that I make, etc. Same with my boyfriend (also because he doesn’t talk to me but that’s another story). Somebody once told me that “It’s the little details that keep the relationship going on”, maybe she had her point but we can’t deny that such details are totally irrelevant to one’s life if one is not in it. Trivial incidents are not meant to last; they are only significant at the very instant of their occurrence – that’s why they’re part of the “daily” life, not the Life.
I see myself becoming increasingly individualistic and unconcerned with moral standards, and my extended horizon of cares only reduces my capacity for affection. I’m not bothered by it. I’m not bothered by anything at all. I’ve drifted too far from the life in community.
Now let’s step out of this egocentric perspective. In fact, I’m also just a room in someone else’s life. It’s very likely that they can switch me off. When I’m the one being shut down, I can’t complain. Each has their own way of coping with change and distance.