Temporary or Not, Let’s Connect as Friends

This article is also available in Simplified Chinese.

I remember how sad I was the day Owen left Australia.

He didn’t want to leave. He’d fallen in love with the country while here on his working holiday from Taiwan. But after five years, he ran out of options. His visa was up and he had to go.

And no, we weren’t in a relationship. I became friends with his boyfriend too, who’d joined him for a while in Australia.

I just didn’t have a lot of close friends at that point, so Owen’s departure hit me hard.

So hard, that I stopped making new friends for a long time. All the friends I made, I thought to myself, eventually have to leave. So, why make new ones? It just creates pain.

That was the nature of my circle. I met most people at university and most were international students. Once their studies were over, they either had to leave Australia or move interstate for work. Such is the life of a temporary visa holder. Study, career, and the status of our visa, are our most pressing priorities. Everything else is, well, temporary.

And don’t get me wrong. I don’t blame anyone for deserting me. I’ve done the same thing to others. I had to leave Canberra for a new job in Sydney. The reality is, every time you start a new phase of your life, it sometimes means saying goodbye to old friends. And that can happen a lot to anyone on a temporary visa.

Sadly, that means relationships also tend to be temporary.

When you think about it, gay apps are made for people such as me. I’ve no doubt that some people do find love on them but when it comes to hook-ups, there seems to be an unspoken rule: you can go to someone’s place, but not enter their lives. That means it’s easy to meet people but not so easy to get to know them.

I met Lucas on one such app. He’d just ended a relationship. We chatted for a while before meeting for casual sex. It developed into something more. Not a relationship. Maybe a friendship. I guess at the very least, he was an acquaintance. We saw each other from time-to-time before he quit his job and moved to another city. Familiar story. And not just for me, I’m sure many in the gay world have had similar encounters.

But just remember that some “encounters” which stem from apps like Grindr do come with risks. If you do decide to throw yourself out there, put your health first and always have safe sex and consider using PrEP to protect yourself from HIV.

In terms of relationship, I’m not an expert but I have discovered one thing.

Shutting people off isn’t the answer. Every time I meet someone like Lucas, I learn more about the type of person I’m comfortable with. And that means I learn more about me. And I get some enjoyment and companionship, no matter how temporary, along the way.

And who knows, one day, a temporary visitor to your life may end up staying. The prospect is reason enough to keep open the possibility. Unlike Owen’s, my visa became permanent, so perhaps the same will happen with a relationship.

That said, I’m now better equipped to mentally protect myself for the inevitable departures along the way. I’ve resolved that all of us are temporary friends to some degree. And I take comfort from the fact that each person I meet guarantees new memories and a unique journey in my life.

So, if our paths happen to cross at some point, I look forward to being your friend. Temporary or not.

Garrison Cheng came from mainland China and now calls Sydney home. He works in media as a journalist and producer with a focus on Chinese communities in Australia. He also helps manage ANTRA, an NGO for Chinese LGBTIQ+ communities. He has a passion for food and is a strong advocate of the Chinese saying: ‘Most problems can be solved over a good meal. For things that can’t, make it two meals.’