Family and Expat Life
In previous posts I have talked about all the things I love about the expat experience living overseas. I have also shared how I know this was the path I was meant to take in my life and have never looked back. With all the wonderful things about being an expat the hardest thing about living abroad for me has been living far away from my family.
I was very fortunate to grow up with a large extended family around me. I am so thankful for that and know how fortunate I am in that regard. My Mom and Dad are one of 5 and 6 children so needless to say we had lots of Aunts, Uncles and cousins around us growing up. My Grandparents on both my Mom and Dad’s sides were around as well. This made for big family gatherings for holidays or any other time we were all together. So many of my childhood memories are of these family get-togethers. I smile when I think of them, even the ones where I was the little victim of tricks of my older brother and cousin. I specifically remember an incident involving me being told to stick my head in between the stair railing at my Grandparent’s house, oh probably just because. I was about primary school age I think and I did it, of course. Next thing I knew my head was completely stuck and I was fully panicked. Tears started flowing down my face. I was terrified. Of course my brother and cousin had done the magical disappearing act leaving me there. Even those memories are fun to cherish!
When I did my semester abroad in Spain during college I knew that would be for 6 months so even though it was hard, I knew when I would be returning home. While it was hard saying good-bye at the airport we all knew we’d see each other again in 6 months time. Also when you’re 20 years old you are a bit more focused on the thrill of the adventure!
My move to Sydney was different. I made the decision to move to Australia, to the other side of the world, without any idea of when I’d return home. I knew it was one of those life-changing decisions. Yes I was older so if you think I sound like a sap go ahead and think that. I don’t care how old you are it is always hard to say good-bye to loved ones especially if you don’t know when you will see them next. Saying good-bye with my Sydney move was no exception. My parents took me to the airport the day I flew out. I have always had a close relationship with my parents, which I am thankful for also. They surprised me by digging my Paddington Bear stuffed animal out of the attic I had when I was a little girl. They wrote a sweet note to me on it. My new neighborhood in Sydney was Paddington so this made it even more special and appropriate. When they gave it to me I felt so much love and sadness all in one. I remember thinking, “am I crazy to do this? Should I be moving this far away with no idea of when I’m returning?” I knew it was what I wanted, as did my parents. I will never forget how hard that good-bye was and seeing my Mom’s tears. I knew she was happy for me and I was starting this new chapter in my life but it doesn’t make that moment any easier.
Here I am now and I have lived overseas away from home and all my family for almost 5 years. I have been lucky to visit 1-2 times each year and even 3 times in the past 12 months. To some people that sounds like quite a lot, to others who have never experienced what I am talking about it may seem bizarre. It depends on each person’s own situation with their family. Before Sydney I lived in San Francisco for 6 years, Santa Cruz before that and San Diego prior to Santa Cruz. I was never really far away from my family so it was always just a drive to see my parents or to family gatherings. I also know that people living in the same country, same state or even sometimes even in the same city don’t see their family that much, which I guess, is similar. Maybe it’s the fact you’re living in another country or continent that makes it feel different?
There are definitely days I think to myself, “your parents aren’t getting any younger and neither are your Grandparents. How many times will I visit them over the next few years? If I were in the States I’d see them much more.” Those are the moments I really wonder if I am making the right choice by continuing to live so far away. One thing I feel very thankful for is the fact I had both sets of Grandparents in my family growing up. My Dad’s Father passed away when I was in my early 20s but my Dad’s Mother and both my Mom’s parents are still alive and kicking. They are in their late 80s and early 90s. Amazing isn’t it? I can only hope I have that kind of longevity in my life.
I guess this is one of those things that never really gets “easy,” well at least not for me. My family is happy I am living the life I want to live, that I have had some incredible experiences living abroad so far; I have met amazing people and have found a partner in life. I know they are happy that I am happy. I know that parents always want the best for their kids and for them to live out their dreams. I really do know all of this. Even so that little nagging feeling of wondering if I should be back with family won’t go away and I don’t think it ever will. I think it is all just part of the experience of living abroad.
With all the great technology these days staying in contact is much easier than it was before. Skype video calls are great! When you actually see the person/people while you are talking to them, you feel that much closer and forget you are across the world from one another.
Instead of focusing on that nagging feeling inside of me I think of all the times I have had with my family throughout my life and all the times ahead. I have those memories and experiences no matter where I am in this big, wide world. Family is a part of you no matter where you are. I always remind myself they know I am happy and living the life I want to live. I know in my heart they wouldn’t have it any other way.
Now on a ligher note, check out this picture of Ozdane and my Dad from our visit last July! Clearly it was a rough morning on the golf course! Look at the similar body positions, too funny!