I have taken up a challenge thrown down by Blogging Abroad to reflect on my re-entry, in the hope that it will help others along their own re-entry journey or bring understanding to their loved ones watching from the sidelines. It’s not all good and it’s not all bad. It is a journey and one I’m pleased to have worked through. In 5 words, I describe my experience of returning home after living abroad.
Going home after living abroad is like eating dark chocolate. That first taste is a shock. Bitter. Then the creamy texture kicks in as the chocolate melts and sticks to the roof of your mouth. Sweet. You know dark chocolate is better for you than its full-bodied counterpart. Going home after living abroad is like this – good for you but bittersweet.
Returning home meant saying goodbye to treasured friends, some of whom became an integral part of our family. It also meant being close to immediate family – 3 nieces and a nephew were born whilst we lived abroad so returning home meant building relationships with them for the first time. Bitter. Sweet.
Having lived 137km north of the Equator for the last 6 years, returning home to that first Winter was a shock, just like that first taste of dark chocolate. We all suffered from illness and shivered our way through, only to then experience a majestic Spring, filled with birds chirping, blooming flowers and bright blue sky days. Bitter. Sweet.
In our case, we knew that the education on offer at home was better suited to our boys’ needs but it also meant forfeiting some incredible experiences and opportunities. I mean who goes to another country and snorkels in a pristine World Heritage marine park for their Grade 5 school camp? Good for our family members but bittersweet.
True confessions, I had never been on a roller coaster until I became the Mother of two adventurous sons. The whole up, down, round and around motion sent my stomach into a spin and that was when I was standing on the ground! Re-entry is like being on a roller coaster – up, down, round and around. Good days, bad days and days when you feel both – several time over. There were moments when I wanted to shut my eyes and not look at what was ahead, but there was also a sense of accomplishment (and relief) when the roller coaster feelings subsided. I had survived and felt better for overcoming the challenges associated with returning home after living abroad.
Speaking of challenges, I’m a big believer in the notion that challenges are good. In the right measure and with the right support, they can be springboards for growth. Returning home after living abroad is challenging. It impacted every part of my being – physical, mental, emotional, spiritual and social – but because I was well informed about the process of re-entry and therefore prepared, I was able to use those challenges as learning opportunities. Being informed didn’t mean I, or we as a family for that matter, avoided the challenges associated with returning home but it did help each of us work through them effectively.
We’ve been ‘home’ for two years now and during that time there has been a lot of soul searching. Everything changes because of an overseas assignment. We’ve changed. Our family and friends have changed. Our home country has changed. In many ways, returning home has meant starting again – which provided me with the opportunity to dig deep and determine the person I wanted to be. My faith has been instrumental in this journey. I have found the power of self-reflection and my writing has certainly helped there too. The person I was before we lived abroad no longer exists so returning home has helped me prioritise – people, perspectives, places, possessions, plans, purpose.
All that soul searching has led me to a good place. As a 40 something woman, returning home has given me an opportunity to re-launch myself. All my experiences, knowledge, challenges and triumphs, have provided a launching pad for me to plan and create a new global life. That doesn’t mean I’ll be criss-crossing the globe continually but it does mean using my overseas experience to positively impact others near and far. Yes, it’s true, re-entry is hard (some say it’s the hardest of all international moves) but I have grown so much during the process. By the way, I have borrowed the word ‘Relaunch’ from Dr Cate Brubaker whose Re-Entry Series I found very valuable.
So there you have it – my re-entry journey in 5 words – bittersweet, rollercoaster, challenging, soul-searching and re-launch. You can see from these words that re-entry is a process not an event. It takes time and requires an engagement in that process. Once I saw that returning home was not the end of the journey but another step along the journey, I progressed much more efficiently. What about you?
This post is part of BloggingAbroad.org‘s After Abroad Blog Challenge. Would you like to join the After Abroad Blog Challenge? It’s a great way to engage in and process your re-entry. Find out more here.