By Finger blogger: Andrea McKenna
20 hours flying, 10 hours waiting, 4 hours in cars, and nearly 10 pounds later, I am finally on the way home from my home leave trip to America.
I can hardly believe it’s been the 11th trip in almost six years! (And I still managed to make rookie travel mistakes like leaving a yogurt spoon for my daughter in my pocket during the transfer security check in Hong Kong. Sigh. Luckily, they were quite forgiving and even let me keep the yogurt.)
I think the biggest question I get from friends about these long trips are: Why do we do it to ourselves? The long haul flying. The fatigue. Oh, and traveling with a baby and toddler.
Looking back, I was out of my mind most of the time! No sleep, constant worry about food, pooping, accidents and overhead space on the plane… I am quite happy to report that the now-five-year-old’s only transgressions on the flights were shouting “I want my car seat!” and “I want bubble gum!”.
Overall, I am a much calmer flier with a child and that makes for easier interchanges with the flight staff. I don’t need to hit the call button anymore and my little girl can use the bathroom by herself.
I even went back to enjoying the port with the cheese cart again in celebration of this.
So why do we do it? I do know people who don’t travel back often, especially with kids, because they don’t want to either deal with the travel or the nostalgia and FOMO of visiting what used to be home.
I totally get this but insist on putting myself through painful rejections from people who are too busy to visit and longing visits to Target which only take place twice a year instead of every week.
I went to my hometown for the first time in 2+ years and saw my two sisters and lots of friends. I’m a long way from life in New England but I managed to choke down about 7 or 8 lobsters in a span of 7 days there, with lots of lemon butter, plus clam chowder, and beer.
Seeing old friends was wonderful and I was able to meet up with two on my last day in Connecticut–one from my high school field hockey team, who I hadn’t seen in 8 years and one from my terrible newspaper job in Norwich, who I hadn’t seen in 7 years. While I am glad I have moved on from those time periods on my life–one was the best (high school state field hockey championship 1988) and one was the worst (worst media job I have ever had 2003-2006)–I was able to reflect on what I used to be like and see how far I’ve come.
Mostly, I was able to say a sort of thanks to all my friends who have supported me in my life since I’ve been in Singapore. And when I think I can’t make friends here or I keep losing friends, I am reminded that I have some value and something to give as a person.
I talk a lot about starting over with new friends here and I’m at it again, as a new round are leaving.
I’m glad I got a booster session with my old pals in American to encourage me to keep going, keep trying and have fun meeting new people.
So, this week, I start over again in Singapore. Post-US trip, heavier and in need of more salad from my go-to salad bar and more walks in East Coast Park. Ready, set, go!
About Andrea McKenna
Andrea McKenna Brankin is journalist and author from the United States who lives a full life with bipolar disorder. Her book, Bipolar Phoenix, is awaiting a publishing contract. She is also currently a volunteer at the DaySpring Residential Treatment Centre for teen girls in Singapore, providing befriending-family support, therapeutic writing and rugby coaching.