On March 18, 2011 I wrote my first post on this blog, titled “About Longing and Belonging”. The post was about the definition of “home”, the sense of belonging or, the lack there of, and about how lucky I am to have friends and family sprinkled all over the world.
Yes, I am lucky – very lucky. And the reality is, that had I not travelled and lived abroad as much as I have, I wouldn’t now have all these wonderful people in my life. I wouldn’t have met my husband. Still, there are days when I just feel like curling up in the corner of the couch, burying my face in a pillow, and screaming out off the top of my lungs: “WHY CAN”T I JUST STAY STILL!!”
As I have established before, I do love travelling – and, I love my husband. I would travel – and have travelled – around the world for him, and more importantly, with him. But there are days when I think life could just be so much simpler if I had controlled my urge to travel and live abroad when I was younger, and just settled into a stable life in Finland. If I had met someone there, gotten a good, steady job, married, bought a home, had some kids. If life was a bit less unpredictable, less unstable, less.. mobile. There are days when I am just sick of always missing people – missing my family, my mum and dad and sisters, missing friends, missing weddings and funerals and births. Not being there for life altering events in the lives of people I love, not having friends to hold my hand and comfort me when I sob pathetically in the bathroom, hissing at my poor husband how he just “doesn’t understand”. Of course he understands – he was a military brat. He knows exactly what it’s like to feel rootless, feel detached – and yet, he chose to marry a foreigner, committing his life to even more travel and moving and instability. I really should appreciate that more, I think.
There are days when I talk to my family back home, and I hear how they miss me. I miss them too, all the time, every day. On those days, I feel guilty – for not being closer, for not being able to visit home for Sunday dinner, not being there to help my younger sister build her first house, not being able to see the youngest sister off as she is getting ready to take a leap of faith and move her life to Scotland with her Scottish boyfriend. I won’t be home for Christmas this year, which just breaks my heart, because for me, there’s no Christmas anywhere else.. and, let’s be honest, because no one cooks Christmas food like my mum does, even though she goes ballistic in the days and hours leading up to the big feast every year.
I miss stability. I miss knowing what will happen next year, where we will be, what we will be doing. With all the mystery and excitement that comes with a mobile lifestyle, it can also be very straining at times. We want to start a family one day, but we don’t know where – both of our home countries have their pros and cons. No matter where we’ll be, our kids will be half way across the world from at least one half of their extended family, and one set of grandparents will be half way across the world from their (probably) first grandchild. We want to own a home one day – but where? How will we be able to make the decision to buy property in one country over the other, and will that country then essentially become “home” for our family? We talk about these decisions a lot – or, fight about them – not necessarily because we disagree, but because they are emotional and scary decisions. We know there’s no one right answer, there’s no magical formula we can use to figure this out, and we know we’ll just have to take life as it comes and go with it. I know I have a tendency to try and over plan everything, and I know I cannot plan every event of my life and foresee every big thing that waits around the corner, but sometimes – sometimes, I miss the stability. I miss knowing what is coming, or at least having the illusion of knowing. I wish I could have just stayed still…
…but. On the other hand, I know that I have many friends who look at my pictures, read my blog, listen to my stories, and sigh silently while thinking to themselves: “Why can’t I have that”. I know I have many friends who sometimes get jealous of my life, of how I lived in New York, travel all over, work internationally, get to see the world. These might be friends who now own homes, have children and beautiful families, and have stable lives – lives I envy from this side of the looking glass – and just like they can’t always see the downsides of my life style, I can’t see the down sides of theirs. I don’t see the sleepless nights, the mortgage payments, the challenges of family life, just like they can’t always see the stress that comes with constant culture shock, the look in my eyes when I see pictures of a best friends wedding or baby’s birth I have missed again, the pain in my chest that comes with such a paralyzing force every time I can’t be home to be with my family when something big happens. I have realized that lately, I have been so focused on thinking about all the things I don’t have, or things I can’t have, that I’ve entirely lost sight of all the wonderful things in my life, and all the positive sides of the expat lifestyle. After all, there are plenty – even though stability is most certainly not one of them.
I think, at times, we all get too busy staring from behind the glass, looking to the other side, focusing on what is going on there and how it is something we don’t have. There will always be things others have and I don’t, because I have made decisions that have inevitably closed some doors for me – but on the other hand, so many new ones have been opened as a result. I firmly believe we all should strive to challenge ourselves, to push the envelope, to take chances and risks and leaps of faith – but I don’t think there’s any one way of doing that. We challenge ourselves in different ways. For some, it might mean going back to school after years of being a stay-at-home mum, for others it might mean leaving a stable but boring and uninspiring job and going for something totally new, and for me – well, for me, one day, it might be making a decision of staying still. Whatever it is, I hope I have the courage to take that leap, and I hope I will remember then, as I try to remember now, that life is not about absolutes – and even those doors that were once closed, can almost always be opened again – If I want to.