As I watch the last hours of 2020 ticking away, I have no feelings of excitement or gratitude or hope or even relief. I know nothing will change. In the absence of hope, my tired trust and belief will have to be enough. Because I do believe that I will get through whatever 2021 throws my way. We’ll get through it together.
Recently I’ve written several drafts on cross-cultural life for my ‘work’ blog that are more personal in nature, more emotional in style. I think the decision to make writing my outlet again somehow overflowed naturally.
I’m settling into a new place, a new routine, a new identity – and chronic pain is in the forefront again. I feel the limitations of my body constraining me near constantly. It is frustrating. So very frustrating.
Blogging is a discipline that reminds me to connect – to look around, to notice, to appreciate. To focus on small details. To tell small stories about real life. I used to write those sorts of small stories about my life in China. I think it’s time to start telling them again.
A good month before leaving Australia for my US trip I was dreaming of Orlando. I knew that this place would be the rest my soul desperately needed. I spent a week of unhurried days with people who were key figures of my daily life in Beijing. I also spent time birdwatching the wetland wildlife, marvelled at Spanish moss covered trees, and enjoyed a bit of warm weather.
A year ago today I said goodbye to China. Sometimes it’s hard to believe it’s been so long! I still feel connected to China and leap at any opportunity to talk about China. Here are some things I miss about Beijing, but ALSO things I am loving about Sydney. It’s important to acknowledge what I’ve lost while also appreciating what I’ve gained.
I’ve been here 4+ months now; it’s been 9 months since I left China. Life has felt different, easier, over the past month – which made more clear how difficult the first few months were. Each month is easier and more enjoyable than the one before – I can’t ask for much more than that.
One of the things I appreciate most about my new life here in Sydney is that there are lots of moments that remind me of China – meals at Chinese restaurants, snippets of Chinese conversation with classmates, hearing Mandarin spoken about me almost every time I’m out in public… It really helps me on the days homesickness lifts its head.
This was the week I finally accepted something I already knew to be true, not just as an idea but as a reality. Repatriation is hard. It takes time – a lot of time. And there is no shortcut. It is challenging to invest in a place my heart is not attached to – my mind has been in the world that I have known and loved and invested in for more than a decade.
Last week was rough. My body was tired, my emotions frayed, my mind fuzzy; I was full of anxiety and very much on edge. But then everything changed. In a day I went from feeling the worst, to the best, I have since I arrived in Australia. It was almost instantaneous. It was weird. But lovely and most welcome. I’m happy to call it both a miracle and a result of being well loved – which are, really, almost the same thing.
Call it transition, call it grief, call it whatever you like, the result is that I just feel tired. But I was inspired by a list of “used to”s – things she used to do, and things she’s getting used to now. I thought it was an interesting way to reflect on how different the details of life can be during a transition. So here are my own “used to” lists…
People keep asking me about re-entry, and whether I’m struggling to re-adjust. The problem is, I’m starting again, more than returning to something. One big difference community living rather than abundant solitude. One similarity is the international flavour of the community I am living in. It’s also lovely to start reconnecting to the culture of my passport country – its beaches and parks, at least!