What We Lose When We Go Back

Look what I lost in the draft folder a year ago! I have to confess I’m thrilled to tap back into an overseas community, and that I’m still trying to sort out which trail is mine to take. Can you relate?

[From March, 2018]

We’ve learned that we’re heading back to Omaha this summer, likely for a handful of years. [Author’s note: HA!]

This feels mostly good; correct. I’m ready to go back to work and I have a network of professional contacts there. We have friends there, and family isn’t too far away to enjoy long holiday weekends together sometimes. The boys are both school-age. It’s consistently ranked as one of the top places to raise a family in the U.S.

But there’s this loss that I’m sure anyone who has loved the expat life feels when they repatriate.

For the past seven years (and, in many ways I feel like our year in Alabama counts), I have been a foreigner. I have been an outsider with curious ways, keen to learn about the place to where I’ve been transplanted. I have also belonged in a way that makes me feel seen, to the group of people my husband has worked with and their families. I have learned at once to be a citizen of a small community and a citizen of the world.

Weekends and holidays are a pass to explore a stunning array of historic and natural beauty in a day trip. It’s all right here. Conversation flows around the topic of travel and experiences of interacting with the local culture. I love that. I love to be tapped into the current of energy that is the wonder of the diverse achievements of mankind and Mother Nature.

I also love the “La Dolce Vita” attitude, that stuff that doesn’t really matter isn’t worth stressing about, and that what you think you should be stressing about probably doesn’t really matter that much. That life is for living. That we are all here to share the experience of Life with the people we love and those who are woven into the fabric of our life’s story. Of which we are each our own protagonist.

Mostly? I’m sad that I’m approaching a decision I don’t feel entirely ready to make. I worked hard at my career before I had children, and put a lot of value on it. It defined me. Then I became a mom and moved overseas; being a mom defined me. Neither of those bits of my character have left, but as my kids have spent time in school, I’ve had the luxury of time to try out what defines me now, as an individual. What I’ve learned is that maybe those two things aren’t it. This gift of time has lead me to a trailhead with many paths from which to choose. And if I’m anything, it’s “very anxious to make a decision without having thorough research and a good gut feeling.”

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