One of my best friends is getting married tomorrow and I can’t be there. We’ve been friends for 10 years, and have supported each other through every big and small occasion of note since high school. Despite the fact that we went to different universities, we always stayed in contact. He drove an hour to see my solo recitals and I made special trips downstate to celebrate his birthday. When I moved my wedding from August 2014 to June 2013, all he said was “I’ll be there.” Tomorrow he’s marrying a woman who is incredibly smart (graduated top of her class from the top university education program in the United states), who is dedicated to her profession, and is one of the most people beautiful people (both inside and out) I know. It pains me more than words in any language can express that I can’t be there.
I can’t be there because I am still waiting for my residency visa and I am not allowed leave Belgium until that’s processed. I knew there was a chance that I wouldn’t be able to leave in time and I did everything I could to be able to fly back to the United States on December 12. I put my papers for residency 4 days after I landed in Belgium, I went to all the required meetings, hoping that it would allow happen quickly enough for me to leave in time for this wedding. But governments are slow and here I am, still hanging in residency limbo.
What hurts is knowing that this is going to be the first of many instances where this happens to me. Due to some external force, be it timing or money or something, I am going to miss out on many important events for many of the people I love back in the United States and it’s not fair. It’s not fair that we will never have to miss my husband’s best friend’s wedding because of visas. It’s not fair that we will never have to decline his aunt’s 50th birthday party because of distance. It’s not fair that we will never have a good excuse to miss someone’s first communion, but we will always have those excuses for the people I left back in across the Atlantic.
It’s just not fair.
And yes, I can Skype with my parents every weekend and I can use Whatsapp or Viber to text amusing things to friends, and I may be even to FaceTime a friend during B & L’s wedding reception tomorrow and give my congratulations “in person.” All of those different types of technology help keep us connected and allow us to maintain relationships and friendships that would not have been possible 20 years ago, but it’s not the same and I can’t live my whole life virtually, attending important life events as pixels on a screen.
So today I will hate living in Belgium and that’s okay. Today I am going to keep looking at the look at the clock and consider rushing down to the train station to get to the Zaventem Airport and hopping on the first flight to the United States. Because even if I show up at his reception at 10 o’clock at night, jet lagged and in jeans, at least I will have been there on his wedding day. But tomorrow I am going to wake up next to my husband and enjoy our Saturday together. Maybe we’ll spend the afternoon at the Antwerp Christmas Market; and before I make a fool of myself on the ice rink, we drink delicious Glühwein and toast to the horizon to life and happiness of my best friend and his new wife.