Dear expat, it's OK to feel lost (Pt. 1)

A letter to the expat that feels like "the prodigal child" upon returning to a home where time has crept through solid memory.

Written BY

Shabaaka

Shabz is a wanderlusty futurist who helps potential expats overcome their fears of living abroad by providing expert research coupled with real life experience.

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July 2019

We get you.

You left the only country you knew for reasons you may or may not be able to articulate. OK, sure, there’s a justification—it was a job opportunity.

Or a gap year that turned into a gap half-decade.

Or a study abroad that got extended indefinitely.

Or an internship which became a career.

Or just a whim that became a way of life—but that’s only the defense for the mysterious pull of the country that called you.

You danced, and worked, and lived, and learned, and loved in an unfamiliar language that now fights for a permanent place on the curve of your tongue and in the groves of your brain.

But that new place stops being “new” at some point, doesn’t it? Sure, nostalgia bubbles up and sometimes boils over, but eventually it becomes “home.”

You fell into a rhythm that felt as foreign then as going “back home” does now. (And what does that mean, anyway—“home”?—in an age where it’s as easy to get across the city as it is to get across the continent?)

We get you.

It’s OK to come back and feel lost for a while. To see the cracks where time grew through the memories you thought had set in crystal.

It’s OK to feel left out. To be at the table when everyone’s laughing at inside jokes that you had to be there to get, but you weren’t.

It’s OK to feel like you’re lagging behind your friends who “stayed the course.” To feel like you did something wrong because they’re mid- and upper-management with stars on the rise and you’re looking for something entry-level in a field you graduated in.

It’s OK to feel like the place you grew up is no longer “home.” To stop yourself mid-sentence and give a new answer when someone asks your address. To have to consciously remember how to get around a town you used to be able to navigate with your eyes closed.

We get you.

Now you need to get you.

You’re not the you you knew.

You’re something entirely new.

The person that left home all that time ago is not the same person you are. They didn’t die, but they are gone. And in their place stands you: Someone whose creation was less of a singular “event” and more of a process spanning millions of moments where every struggle, every opportunity, every failure, and every success contributed to the person you are today.

You’re creative. You took creation into your own hands and molded yourself from yourself to create yourself.

You’re bold. You stepped outside of the path you were “supposed” to take and fought to make a destiny completely different from the one pre-ordained by everything you knew.

You’re adaptive. You learned a new world, taught yourself to navigate it, and then forged forward with the map you made.

We get you.

You’ve come back to a place you’ve never been from a place you barely remember going. It’s a memory of a dream of a vision wrapped in déjà vu.

It’s confusing.

It’s an adventure.

We get you.

“I know not who I am, simply that I am forever becoming exactly what I am meant to be.”

Becca Lee

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