The Hello / Goodbye: Expat Life
It’s 12:55 pm and you’re sitting in a busy café in Melbourne waiting to meet a friend. You are just off a flight, struggling to stay awake. But you will not let jet lag bring you down. You sit there wondering why you didn’t choose to go to Mexico or Hawaii instead. Somewhere you could have sat on a beach in the sun reading a book.
It’s exciting to be home, of course it is, but you know this is not a holiday, never a holiday. Because as any expat knows, a trip home involves a full schedule of lunches, dinners, drinks, and catchups. I like to refer to them ‘The Hello / Goodbye’s’.
When you live on the other side of the world and you are only home for an average of 8 days a year, there are a lot of people to see up with and not a lot of time.
Thus ‘The Hello / Goodbye’ is born, where you get to go through the whole spectrum of emotions.
All the way from excitement as you first see this person that you love to joy as you reconnect to sadness as you both realize that you will not see them in the flesh for another year to melancholy as you bid them farewell. All of these emotions in the space of one hour at a café in Melbourne as you eat lunch.
It is easy in these 60-minute snapshots into your loved one’s lives to see the green grass on their side of the fence. To see the houses and the husbands and the children and the dogs and wonder if that’s what you want.
It’s during these moments, as the expat guilt settles in, that I know I often stop to question my life choices. As an expat, you miss so many life events, so many weddings, and birthdays, and family dinners. It makes you start to wonder if you could be happy selling insurance in your family business in a small country town in Australia if it meant you would be home with your family. Could you move back to Sydney and find joy working on smaller shows to be closer to friends?
But the answer is always ‘no’.
It’s easy to forget that you get to live a life that most only dream of. A life full of adventure and travel and new experiences.
A life where you won a small green card shaped chance of a life time in a lottery that 14 million people enter. A life full of water shows and towels and Franco Dragone.
So, for me ‘The Hello / Goodbye’s’ will continue. As many as I can fit in until my eight days are up and I am mentally and emotionally drained. Then I will board that 15-hour flight back because I know who I am, and where I am meant to be. Until my next annual pilgrimage, I will savor every moment of those ‘Hello / Goodbye’s’. I will replay them over and over in my head. But until then there is always Skype and Voxer and WhatsApp and Facebook and iMessage…