It’s that time of year when ‘good-byes’ are being said for expats around the world. Today’s post is by guest writer Dion Bos. I met Dion a few years back at a workshop. She is fun, insightful, and I love what she wrote about her transition she is going through. This post is copied (with her permission) from her Facebook status.
I recently received an IMessage from a friend living in the U.S. that read, “I heard a rumor that you are moving home. Is it true?” It caught me off guard as we had not publicly announced that we would be ending our expatriate experience in Taiwan and returning back to the Chicagoland area within a few months. As I stared at the message considering how I should respond, my eyes locked on the word HOME.
Was I moving home?
Or was I leaving my home?
I started to get a sick feeling in my stomach realizing I wasn’t sure where home was. I mean, at times when I’m going to visit my parents in the farm house I grew up in, I still find myself saying, “I’m going home for the weekend.”
So what exactly is home?
According to the Webster Dictionary Home is: “a place where one lives permanently, especially as a member of a family or household”. This simple definition seemed so off to me, when here I was, almost 40years old, holding back tears and completely struggling with the realization that I no longer knew where my home was. So, I quickly shut down my computer and closed my eyes to take a few deep breaths and think about MY home.
I realized “Home” is not a building or structure, nor is it the name of a certain city or state where you physically live. Rather…
- It is everything and everyone that surrounds you.
- It is everything you drive by on a daily basis.
- It is everywhere you shop.
- It is the school where you drop your kids off every morning.
- It is the teachers you trust with the minds and hearts of your children every weekday.
- It is all the friends that you can count on to help protect your family.
- It is the coffee shop where you always meet people to share your stories.
- It is the restaurant you love to eat at.
- It is the park you love to sit at or the mountain you love to hike or the route you love to jog… and so on and so on.
Webster also defines Expatriate as: “a person who lives outside of their native country”. Once again I felt so let down by Webster. That this book could downplay the craziness of packing up your family, moving to a foreign land and completely altering the way you have been living your life up until that point. To me living as an expatriate is so much more.
- It is the people that take you under their wing immediately that you can call when you are lost.
- It is the Facebook groups you can ask where to find whatever it is you are looking for.
- It is the community members who take on the challenge of making homemade goods and selling them because you can’t find them easily at the local stores.
- It is the parents and teachers who volunteer to coach every sport, substitute teach, chaperone culture trips, lead Chapel, and so much more.
- It is the abundance of people who choose to accept everyone around them instead of looking for inadequacies because we know we need each other.
- It is taking a challenging and scary situation and instead of calling it what it is, everyone reassures you that it is just an adventure.
- It is the confidence you gain when you accomplish a task in a foreign language.
- It is the thrill of exploring land or even countries that would have terrified you in the past.
- It is the remarkable ability of placing complete trust in tour guides or local people to take you out into the middle of the ocean, or the jungle, or in sidecar rides down the busiest streets in town.
- It is gaining a true understanding of WHY another culture acts, reacts, believes or denies WITHOUT discrediting them or immediately telling them they are wrong.
- It is putting complete trust in God that no matter how difficult things may seem, no matter how often you have to play charades to communicate, no matter how much you think you can’t live without real bacon, Reece’s Peanut Butter cups and Dee Dish Pizza, no matter how many stores, markets and fruit stands you have to shop each week for your weekly groceries, no matter how long or short you have lived there or how many hard goodbyes you have had to say, it still becomes your HOME.
It is not a simple noun. Home is the most complex word that encompasses the entire life of any individual. Now, when people ask where I AM FROM-that is different. Sometimes I’m from a small farm town, sometimes from Chicago, sometimes a suburb of Chicago, sometimes I’m just from America and sometimes I’m from Taiwan. I may always give a different answer here and hopefully I even add more replies as my life continues. But one thing I have definitely learned through this process is that where you are “from” is not the same as where your “home” is. Home is not a single place.
Home is your life story. I am not moving back home and I am not moving away from my home. I am simply adding to my home. The experiences I have had, the memories that are ingrained in my mind, all of the people who have infiltrated my heart and embraced me and my family at the different stages of my life are all home. And those things will never be taken from me. Each place I have called “home” brings me comfort in many different ways. Memories resurface and familiar faces fill my mind. Life will continue to evolve and people will come and go, but I will always be home no matter where I end up. My only wish moving forward is that I never settle in one place. I pray to God each day that he just keeps adding to my home and that I never forget those that have helped make each physical place I have lived a part of MY HOME.
Bio: Five years ago I packed up my two daughters (age 4 and 7) to move to Taiwan for my husband’s expat assignment. I was terrified at the time, but soon realized It was one of the best decisions I have made. My girls know so much more about the world, my marriage has grown in amazing ways, I have jump started a fitness career. Our faith and walk with God has grown in so many ways. Now the tables are turned and we are facing repatriating. Once again the feelings we face with change are real and I know so many of you out there feel or have felt the same.
Your Turn: Let us know what you consider part of YOUR home? How do you process this change yourself? What are some things that you have done or will do before you get on that plane for the next destination? Please share in the comments below.
TCKs struggle with the sense of home. If you raise a TCK or work with them – or really had any conversation with one that is semi-deep – then you already know this. It is not some life-changing news to you. If this is new to you, then I suggest that you read this, this, and this to get started – and then I’d Google it for more information.
Though I’m not a TCK, I feel as if I’ve lived long enough overseas and have moved often enough that I what I used to call “home” doesn’t feel like home anymore. Now, this doesn’t bother me so much as I’m older and mature (most days) and have learned to make “home” in whatever place we are at that moment. If this is something you struggle with I just read this great post from an adult TCK. Click here to read it.
What does bother me is that as I am getting older and we continue to move, that I am starting to remember stores or streets that we shopped at but can’t always remember what city/country it was in. For instance, I was shopping at a Costco here (I know, so spoiled!) and while shivering in the walk-in refrigeration section I was visited by a memory of the past: Ge Ge sitting in a shopping cart in the middle of a huge refrigerator room while I frantically picked over the meat and veges because he had on shorts and a T-shirt and the elderly ladies were starting to scold me for not putting enough clothes on him. I stood, still shivering, in that Costco refrigerator giggling and trying to remember what store and city/country I was in…after coming to my senses and before I turned blue, I grabbed what I needed and zipped out of there. Later, after my brain returned to normal temperature, I remembered where we were at…Metro, Wuhan, China. This is just one of many times where I was trying to remember some street, store, or event from another city/country.
Am I the only one that has moments where memories come to mind from days gone past and can’t remember where it took place? Is this just how it is for expats after years of moving around? The normal everyday places where we once called home become a foggy distant memory that visits us during trips to Costco, a market street, or even in a smile from a stranger at the post office?
Share your stories below in the comments section. I know I’m not the only one.
The Leaving Series: If you’d like to be a guest writer, I’m running a series on leaving. More detail can be found here.