All expats miss things from home and sometimes that feeling is all-consuming. Blogland is really feeling that right now including fellow France expat blogger Sara in Le Petit Village who wrote about the things she misses most from the U.S. just this week and Cosette of Stumble Down Under in Australia talked about the phase where everything sucks. It seems the more time you’re away, the more that list of things you miss grows (and would SOMEONE open up a Dunkin’ Donuts in France already?????).
Life is all about transitions — getting older, going away to college, moving on in your career, getting married, moving into a new home or to a new place, maybe having babies. It’s all so strange when routines and people change. We all evolve and life takes on newness every step of the way. But how well do we deal with these changes? Sometimes it’s easy and sometimes it’s not easy at all.
Life in transition
In just over a week, I’ll be heading to Miami to visit my family. My brother lives in the area and now my parents do as well. They’ve officially moved from New Jersey and my childhood home is no more. And I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel weird. No longer will I go “home” to the place I’ve known for 25 years. Now my visits to the U.S. will be full of palm trees and humidity.
We’re also moving into our new house soon! And I see friends from home going through their own transitions as well.
How do I deal with change during these transitions?
I find comfort in my routines. Like Dagny, I am a creature of habit and every morning, I have to make my coffee and start my day in front of my computer checking a few blogs and other sites before I can begin my work. Dagny and I go for a walk every morning between 10 and 11 and Tom comes home for lunch at 12:45. These little things keep me on a schedule and give me a purpose on days when I may feel a little down. Knowing things are expected of me keeps me following my routine and before I know it, that transition I was going through has passed and I’ve made it to the other side unscathed… so yes, keeping busy works for me. And American TV never hurt anyone. 😉 (Is Homeland back yet??)
Sometimes I want things from “home.” American things. And sometimes I miss places. But how long can I miss something that I may never go back to? Would I miss things in France if I moved back to the U.S.? Of course. I’m away from home. But by saying I’m “away,” it implies that there’s a possibility of going back — of no longer being away. When do we realize that maybe we’re no longer away but that we’ve arrived somewhere else?
I realized that these issues us expats face really don’t have much to do with the actual physical place. Sure, France (or anywhere) has annoying things we all have to deal with but the big thing for me is that by living here, I miss out on what’s going on at home. And that would be the same if I’d moved to Texas instead.
The road to making friends
Another transition has to do with making friends. One issue I’ve had in France is not having friends (the post called The Lonely Expat Problem was one that resonated with readers the most) and today that is going to change. I finally decided to join some meetup sites and am meeting a French woman and her dog today at the park. It’s a doggie playdate and I couldn’t be happier. Before joining these sites, I’d keep putting it off saying I’ll do it when we move, or I’ll do it when work slows down or any other excuse. But really I was just nervous since I’ve never used French in a social context aside from with my husband and his family. But I know I can do it and I may surprise myself. I’ll report back on how that goes… fingers crossed she’s not a weirdo.
Anyway, I don’t know how long it takes for someone to settle into the new normal. Does France feel normal to me? Not exactly. Will it ever? I have no idea. These transitional periods feel weird. Going “home” to Miami will feel weird for sure, like I’m on vacation, but at the same time, it’ll feel strangely familiar because there will be people I know, places I know and a culture that I feel a part of.
The next big transition is moving into our new house just after Labor Day. We’ll be real, live homeowners. And doing homeowner things. Settling into that new chapter of my life in France will be one transition I’m really looking forward to, because even though I’m in a foreign land, I’ll be living in a house, with my husband and dog, having a backyard and a kitchen, and we’ll make this new house our own — with our special touches and our memories. And that will be a very welcome transition because in a place that isn’t exactly my home (yet), I’ll be one step closer to getting there. And that’s something I can get excited about!