I recently wrote a piece for Sass magazine’s online content (“Living an Expat Life“); a short-and-sweet 500 word listicle that I agonized over for three weeks before sending in. As far as freelancing goes, it was one of the more difficult pieces I’ve ever written. Because –
-it seems cosmically appropriate that during this time I not only celebrated my two year anniversary of living here but we also confirmed that we are leaving in April and moving back to Baltimore City. All of these things were circling and up in the air, and I was trying to write a 500-word piece somehow bringing it all together. Every time I sat down to my laptop, I felt a panicked blank. How to describe the first six months were I was so frustrated, so lonely, and so completely lost? How to explain that the friendships we’ve made here are intense in a way only expat friendships can be? How could I talk about the excitement of being able to label yourself an expat and belong to a private club of people who understand the experience and know the vocabulary and emotional gamut involved?
We are heading home in April, packing up our lives once again and suddenly it feels like we just got here. But then I look back over my entries here and what I wrote in my journal, and how the days just seemed to stretch on and on in unfamiliar ways. I read back and realize how difficult this experience was, and how rewarding. How I have no regrets and am so grateful for everything.
Expatdom reaches everyone differently, but I think there’s a shared sense of having been through something completely amazing and mildly traumatic after living in Abu Dhabi. I have no idea what it will be like to go through yet another identity shift like the one I experienced when I moved here – no longer an “expat;” even this blog’s layout will have to change. I came here and felt so lost the first few months as I introduced and reintroduced myself to all new people, settled into a new job where I felt so out of my element for a long time, and learned quickly I had grown comfortable and safe in my old life back in Baltimore. Shedding that skin and relearning how to be “myself” again in a completely new place was one of the more valuable experiences in my life, and now we’ll do it all over again. We’re going “home,” but it’s certainly not the same home we left because we are certainly not the same people.
I like to think there is a happiness and sense of satisfaction waiting for us – there was always something missing before, as though I knew I needed to complete this mission before moving on to the next phase of life. I like to think that we will take all of these experiences and look back on them fondly, perhaps with a comfortable sense of humor.
For now, though, we have a frantic six weeks to do an overwhelming amount of shit as we prepare for repatriation. It feels like preparing to reenter the earth’s atmosphere after being in orbit for so long, and that we’ll come screaming back through the heavens with tails ablaze as we light down into Charm City and try to learn to live in gravity again. Not that expats are the same as astronauts (we’re not that brave), but the concept of dizziness and weightlessness shifting back into normalcy seems familiar.
I was happy with what I ended up writing for the magazine, but I could have written more. A thousand words, ten thousand words….perhaps the book that always seems just out of my grasp is there somewhere.