I’m in a weird place. Teetering on the brink of a sadness that doesn’t really make any sense. Maybe it’s stress. Can you be stressed when you have a lifestyle like mine? I almost don’t think so.
I should be more excited about flying to the States in a week. I should be. And I don’t know why I’m not. I think I’m starting to feel too old for living out of a suitcase for two months out of the year. I feel resentful for all the money we shell out to go visit people. For the first time ever, I have this vision of everyone sitting in their houses, sitting on literal stacks of money, while I sit in economy for 30 hours with two little kids. I imagine them sipping wine in clean clothes, waiting for us to get off the plane all haggard and broke. I think about my parents who don’t have to leave the house but get to spend all this time with my kids, because we bring them literally from the other side of the planet into their living room.
That’s stupid. We’re the ones who moved, how can I possibly be angry about that?
My husband said it first, but once he said it, I realized I’d been feeling it too. He said he felt too old to spend so much of his money every single year traveling back to the same place in Florida. We love seeing our family. Obviously. That’s so obvious, I feel like I don’t even have to say it, but at the same time, saying it three thousand times wouldn’t even be close to enough.
But it feels like last summer was two weeks ago. This has been, by far, the fastest-paced year of my life. I have no idea where it went. When I think about my son’s injury, it feels like ten years ago. When I think about driving back and forth to the grocery store in Florida, it feels like yesterday.
I think we’ve fallen into a routine here in Hong Kong, one we haven’t experienced yet in our married lives. The kids are older now, and the change in them is remarkable. Overnight, they became people instead of things to manage. They require so much less of us now. There are no diapers or bottles. They can (and do) make their own breakfast. Bedtimes aren’t the end of the world. It can happen at 7 if they’re exhausted or at 9 if they’re not. The rules have become more flexible, because their needs have changed. And that change means that they feel more a part of the family now and less like cute little obstacles. Somehow, this makes the time fly by that much faster.
It’s not that I’d rather be somewhere else. I can’t imagine packing for a summer in Bali (although, now that I type that, maybe I can). And it’s not that I don’t desperately miss the people I miss. I do. If I could, I’d choose to spend every day with a handful of the people I’ll be seeing soon. So it’s not that I don’t want to see them.
I think it’s just that the more time we spend away from Florida, the less it feels like home. Especially with the kids where they’re at right now. And if we’re traveling all this distance and spending all this money to go to a place that doesn’t feel like home but is nowhere near glamorous enough to feel like a vacation, then what, praytell, are we doing? Spending a lot of money and living out of a suitcase.
It’s the downside to expat living, and I promised myself ten years ago that it would never happen to me. Every expat I’ve ever met complains about this very same thing. They say it more succinctly (no shit, right?). They usually say, “We spend all the money and spend all of our vacation time going to a place that kind of sucks.” And I’ve always quietly judged them, because. . .really? You’re going to complain about that? Then maybe you should either move back home or else not freaking go there every summer. Don’t blame everyone else for not spending their money and vacation time traveling to a place that they probably never had any desire to visit. But I get it now. Not going home is not an option, because I miss my best friend somewhere deep in my bones. But the appeal and allure has definitely worn off.
And that’s kind of a crappy place to be.