Expats are a transient bunch. We’re used to hellos and good-byes. We’re used to FaceTime catch-ups and long plane rides. While most of us accept that is part of the trade-off for new experiences, new friends and once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, there are times when I wonder, should we “settle down”? This push and pull of expat life is especially strong just after a visit home.
Despite having spent several years abroad, I’ve always made it home for Christmas. There is a rhythm to the holiday — a predictability that is comforting if also unexciting. Seeing my children hug their great-grandmother, chat with their grandparents and giggle with their cousins can simultaneously make the 24 hours of travel feel both grueling and manageable. Visiting with old friends makes the distance feel both significant and insignificant. Driving (driving!) on familiar streets makes you remember the little things you miss and don’t miss. I end up feeling both pushed and pulled by both Singapore and home.
As a parent, whose children are growing up very differently from me, I wonder, will they appreciate the opportunities they’ve been given or will they long for predictability? Will they mourn the fact that the home where they learned to walk and ride a bike is not the same home where they will learn to drive or will they be thankful for such a broad definition of home? (It’s a good thing expats are also good at living with unanswered questions: how long will we stay? Where will we go next? How long will that be?)
We’ve been back for two weeks now, and with the start of school and work, we’re into the rhythm of our routine here. Responsibilities and to-do lists have eased the push and pull to a light tug. Our life, for now, is here and we’re happily reaching for swimmers instead of snow boots, planning trips to places we’ve never been and meeting people with all kinds of stories.
But I am grateful for the tug that tethers me home.
By Kathleen Siddell, January 2016