Something I've been thinking about writing for WEEKS is the list of things that people never tell you. Who are "people," you may be asking yourself? The proverbial "they" -- the wiser and all knowing elders, the fellow expats, your friends who did something similar to you and perhaps moved abroad, built a life and moved home to their country of origin in order to be closer to [insert here: family, their calling, aging parents, better resources].
They don't tell you how bittersweet and weird it will feel moving back to the place you used to call home, yet so long ago. They don't tell you that your heart might feel split in two - divided by a chasm only x-thousand miles wide (and an ocean deep). They don't talk about the little things - seemingly mundane and too insignificant to possibly constitute "reverse culture shock." Am I petty for missing my coffee shop? My mattress? The Sydney coastal breeze?
I arrived on a sunny September morning after 15 hours in flight, twenty hours of travel combined. I walked through immigration at San Francisco International, reminiscent of many a work trip and morning spent looking for coffee through the fog of "the Mondays." I felt different this time, and yet immediately felt a piece of me so consumed by déjà vu that I was the same - transported back to age 25. I walked past the familiar terminals, acronyms and hanging symbol of red white and blue, realizing that I was back on home soil for the indefinite time being. It wasn't just a visit. I was moving "home" - but what did home mean, anyway?
My first weeks back as a SoCal resident have been smooth, familiar and yet sticky in the most unexpected places - like an old and comfy sweater discovered stuffed in the back of your closet or uncovered from under the bed after years, covered in dust bunnies. I drove on autopilot from the rental car hub up the 405-N, remembering college days and weekend drives to see my not-boyfriend in my early-twenties years. I connected to Bluetooth and called B, instantly grateful for the literal LUXURIES i hadn't had living in a hip metropolis for the past six years. Bluetooth and CarPlay? Starbucks drive-throughs? Don't mind if I do, I thought guiltlessly.
This year had been about choosing ease, after all.
I reflect constantly that there are parts and costs of traveling that people never tell you; they don't post them on Instagram or shout them from a giant-tree swing on their youtube travel vlogs. Traveling. home. is. HARD. Traveling period is taxing on the body, the soul, friendships, routine, our health, sometimes family, and unavoidably-- our wallets. But traveling home after time away is something that I have yet to read much about, and I want to know more.
I've been through this before. I keep telling myself this in moments of lonely solitude or doubt. I am in a new world with new direct peers, but I've known all of them for some time now and I have a long standing brand and series of work stories that lay behind me. I must have felt the same when I first moved to SF, again when I moved to Sydney, and even when I moved stores, roles and, finally? companies. During some of those moments, other people were new: my cohort were new to that environment of work; when I first went to bookclub that fateful night in October 2017, I wasn't the only one checking it out for the first time.
And so I had friends, courage, vulnerability and creativity to get me through. I am trying to leverage those same muscles now. When I'm in with my boss, I ask a lot of questions; when I am with my peers I still embody the new girl and ask as many questions as I have (rather than hold them back). Yesterday, I asked a question that I'm glad I broached instead of biting my tongue. I did exactly what Brene recommends: I chose to rumble instead of hiding or guarding myself from judgment by holding back and hoping that no one noticed I'm an imposter.
To daring greatly on the road back home.
Abroad Back Home
Who am I?
I am a girl who loves my island and a girl who loves the sea; it calls me.