It’s a late lazy Sunday afternoon as I slowly peck this entry out on my keyboard. The baby is finally sleeping, my husband is in the next room, relaxing after sharing a late lunch and watching a couple of episodes of “Modern Family” with me, and I’m watching the sun begin to set through the blinds on the window. I am slouched on the bed in my sweatpants with a cup of tea by my side.
I should feel at peace at a moment like this, but I’m not.
A sense of restlessness and slight agitation remain. I breathe a heavy sigh as I know in my heart of hearts that I should feel contented- after all, I’m home. I’m with my family. Or am I?
Earlier today, I had my weekly Facetime session with my mom back in Ohio while bouncing Seba on my knee and showing off how much he’s growing and how darn adorable he looks in his white striped PJs. I’m very fortunate in that I am very close to her. I have always referred to her as my best friend, and it’s no exaggeration. She’s my confidant and ally. She’s my backbone, and I love her. And it’s for this reason that I miss her dearly, and that, despite the circumstances under which I left the United States, it triggers a bout of homesickness.
Living abroad has had its extreme ups and downs, as any expatriate can undoubtedly tell you. It simply comes with the territory. It makes me think of the cliché about having your cake and eating it, too. I left the U.S. like so many fellow members of the Millennial generation have done and continue to do, as part of a class of “economic refugees.” For now, it’s not worth it to get into all the details, but the major issue was I couldn’t find a job or make it work on any level in the States, at the dawn of the economic crisis that had yet to even be officially acknowledged and declared. In a way, I still harbor a bit of a chip on my shoulder toward my country, knowing that seeking greener pastures abroad was not necessarily under the best of circumstances.
Considering my reasons for leaving the Motherland, I know that I’ve done well for myself. Despite so many instances of uncertainty in every sense, I guess you could say that I’ve come out on top, that I’m a “success story.” I’m married, I have a beautiful child, I have an incredible job that I love that finally allows me to put to use what I had pursued for all those years. We live a comfortable (though not luxurious) lifestyle here, we own our condo, and we have our health, amongst so many other luxuries that are out of reach for so many.
“Ugh… What the hell is wrong with me?” I practically reprimand myself.
I look at the sun continuing to set, and it kind of depresses me, for what specific reason, I can’t say. Maybe it’s because it’s the end of another Sunday- a day when I normally make my round of phone calls back home to the States to catch up with a small circle of people with whom I am still in touch after all these years. When I left back in 2008, there were more people on that list. And now, for different reasons, after half a decade, that list has dwindled down to just a few lone names. To the people with whom I am no longer in touch, even if we were good friends before, at best, I’m a distant memory. They would probably be hard-pressed to recall me, like I barely existed at all.
I’m still in touch with some of these people via Facebook, but it’s obviously not the same. Far too much time has passed for us to rekindle any type of meaningful friendship or relationship. If I’ve read one article giving advice about homesickness, I’ve read them all.
“Stay in touch with your old friends!”
“Skype them!” Facebook them! Call them! Message them! E-mail them!”
“Work on positive thinking!”
“Get out there and immerse yourself in the host culture!”
Swell. I wonder if any of the two-bit authors who have written for these WikiHow-type articles have ever really spent time abroad for any significant amount of time, longer than, let’s say a single study abroad semester. After a while, it kind of makes me want to roll my eyes, give my head a good ol’ bang against the wall, and throw up in my mouth (in no particular order).
But what if you are not just a study abroad student? What if this is it, you’re here to stay? What if the circumstances that brought you here were not all positive ones? After reading dozens of these types of advice articles, why is it that no one seemed to keep in mind that for some of us, there really is no “going home” again, neither here nor there nor anywhere? All that Skype stuff and increasingly feeble attempts at staying in touch as so much time passes sometimes can sometimes make you feel worse.
I know that I would have withered on the vine and wound up a sad, sad story if I had stayed in the United States. I’m lucky in more ways that I can count that I am where I am. However, my mind still likes to wander off and play the sadistic “what if?” game (I never win that game, by the way).
“What if I hadn’t moved away? Would What’s-Her-Name and I still be friends?”
“What if I had finally found a job after all? Would it have been better if I hadn’t had to leave?”
“What if I had chosen to do xxx differently while I was still back home? Could it have made a difference?”
“What if something happens to my mom or someone else in my family? I won’t be able to do anything about it.”
“What if I made a mistake having a child abroad? Did I selfishly shortchange my mother from having a meaningful relationship with her only grandchild in the long run?”
Keeping these inner voices in line is no easy task. As preposterous or rhetorical or irrelevant as some of these questions really are to me, they are still there.
The sun has completely set now. I’m not really sure how to end this entry, so I will just leave it like this.