Written for the Scintilla Project based on the prompt
What have been the event horizons of your life – the moments from which there is no turning back?
I’m using this prompt loosely as I have no desire to rehash life’s past events today. However this prompt sparked a thought inside me, something I have been thinking about lately, so I decided I might as well blog it out (so to speak).
The event horizon of every expat’s life is the moment they become an expat. As much as we tell ourselves we can go home if this expat thing doesn’t work out, we never can. That is not to say we can not return to our point of origin, we can, but instead that we can not go back in time, to the time before we became an expat.
For those determined not to enjoy the expat experience (you know who these people are), they can go back to the time before they became an expat, because in a sense, they never were one. They lived somewhere else for a time, but in their minds, they were always home. Their new life was one which they constantly compared to their old life and the new life was always found wanting, it never lived up to their old one. It’s not hard to go home if you have mentally never left.
However, for those, like me, who are determined to enjoy the expat experience to the fullest, those of us who throw ourselves into our new lives wanting to soak up a new culture and a new way of living, there is no going back home. Yes home is still there in a sense. Our place of origin still exists. The people we knew there are, for the most part, still there, although they have moved on with their lives. Lives that no longer include us. But some of these connections can be rekindled on our return. No, the thing that has changed, so fundamentally, is us. We can no longer go back in time to the people we were before we became expats. We can’t slot back into our old lives complete with all our old feelings of home. They simply don’t exist any more.
People ask me when I plan to move back to Australia. I have no such plans. Although my motto is never say never, at this point in my life, I can’t see myself living back in Australia. It’s not that Australia is a bad place to live. With all her faults, she’s still pretty damn special. However, it is me that has changed so much in my 2.5 years here, that I can no longer picture myself being happy back in Australia. Even though I spent the first 35 year of my life in a monolingual culture, I can’t imagine going back to one. For better or worse (and with a great deal of frustration at times), my life has adapted to living bilingually. I’m used to my life being an interesting mixture of English and German. To lose the German half of my life would be like losing part of my identity. Although admittedly to be able to watch English language TV would be a indescribable joy. No, my time here in Germany has forever changed who I am and my life will go on being affected by that change.
Those of you who are expats, do you feel the same? Do you feel that whilst you might return to your country of origin that you can never return to your old life? Do you want to return to your old life or are you happy with the changes that have taken place within you during your expat experience?