Over the last two years of living overseas, it has not been uncommon to wake up in the morning and feel a bit confused about where and who I am. “I’m in Abu Dhabi. In the Middle East. With my husband. Oh yeah, I’m married now. That happened too.” This regular recalibration sometimes happens throughout the day, no matter how mired in our routines we seem to get. The idea that we’re far away from “home” (not necessarily Baltimore, but some unfixed notion of familiar warmth that always seems to exist somewhere else) never really escapes us, and I’m not sure if this is just a reality of being an expat or something that afflicts only those of us who have been abroad for a relatively short period of time. Maybe in another year, or another three years, it would have fallen away. Certainly I expect the (still) surprise that I’m somebody’s wife to wear off eventually (does it, long-married friends?) but I have no clue if I’d still feel like I’m on some kind of long-term, weird vacation.
This lends itself to this weird feeling that one morning I’ll wake up in my old bed back in Little Italy, single for tax purposes but in a very long-distance relationship, and my life will be back in the cluttered and happy busy-ness of work, book club, city runs, and parking fines. As if that parallel life still exists out there like some real-life version of Sliding Doors and I’ll someday step back into the alternate reality. Moving back to Baltimore, which was never out of the question but certainly wasn’t the be-all/end-all plan, comes with the realization that the old life I had there was gone and that I am returning in a much different place in my life than I was when I left.
This is happy news for the most part – my husband and I are no longer trying to carry on a romantic relationship from 7,500 miles away (a story that probably deserves its own blog to tell), I am no longer working in a job that had become both thankless and suffocating, and I no longer have to have awkward “roommate discussions” about dirty dishes in the sink (usually mine – but only because I was in a stand-off until someone emptied the g.d. dishwasher) and being quiet when coming home after midnight on weeknights (my party girl former roommate). There were things about that life that I was more than ready to shed.
But there are things that I miss terribly, that have made living overseas that much more difficult because I miss them so much, that I’m not sure will be there waiting when I get back. Many of my besties have since left the city, pursuing other cities and states for jobs and bigger backyards. The ones that remain are in various stages of growing up with new boyfriends, husbands, wives, and babies. Their lives have carried on and I am not walking back into a conversation where it left off.
This is a new life, and I bring new expectations and goals. A new story, not a continuation of where we were before. For one thing, I’m now sharing that life happily with someone else where before I had built a life primarily around being alone. For another, I’ve got two years of living abroad under my belt and have a whole new set of needs and passions that have bloomed alongside my curiosity for a world bigger than the one I was living in.
This will be an interesting and fun new adventure, and letting the old life die so that the new can take root will probably take some time and some more daily recalibration. Keeping an open mind about how this whole next stage of our lives is going to play out will be crucial. Regardless, the idea of doing this work and bringing all of this newness back to a place that makes my heart sing is so exciting. Hooray for brick, for trees, for dirty harbor water, for independent movie theaters, for nearby family and friends, for microbreweries, for concerts and festivals, and all of my favorite things about Charm City. Spring 2016 shall be sweet indeed.