I’m still here – just!

The last few weeks – months even – have been insane.

Everyone tells you that repatriation is hard but it isn’t easy to explain the impact of a physical move WITHOUT ANY SUPPORT AT ALL combined with the emotions of leaving somewhere you love and returning to a life where you don’t really feel you belong any more.

I am surrounded by boxes. Most of them are empty now. Well, when I say empty, many of them are still filled with packing paper. That wretched paper is the bane of my life. It is taking over. I have thrown piles of it into our downstairs toilet, ostensibly to get it out of the way but in reality it insists on spilling out the door, into our hallway. I should just close the door and pretend it’s not there but then I panic about the fire hazard of having a downstairs loo filled with paper…

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That’s what repatriation does to you. It makes you wake up in the middle of the night and worry about the most ridiculous things. Packing paper is one, but I seem to spend half my life fretting over the silliest of things. It certainly doesn’t help that I am on my own for a few months while my husband finishes his job in Pretoria and that my children have chosen to join the local swim team so I now have to drive them to training up to nine times a week. Including at least twice a week at 6am…

But I suspect that whatever your personal circumstances, this period is hard. Even if you wanted to come home, even if you longed for it. You still have to get used to the fact that you have been away and that others haven’t and now you have to find your new place in your old world.

One of my favourite pieces of advice picked up over the years I have written about expat issues is to treat moving back to your home as if it is a new assignment. Of course it isn’t as easy as all that when you already have friends and the children are going back to their old school and you are moving back into your old house. Everyone sort of expects you just to pick up where you left off (and as I already said in my previous post about repatriation, I have changed). But even if you just pick one of two things that are new or different to how you lived before, you can build on the fact that you HAVE been away and that you are not the same person as you were.

In my case I have already joined a Meet Up group for dog walkers. This is a small thing – I only meet with them once a fortnight or so and it’s more for the dog to socialise than me. But it is important  because this is something I never would have done before we moved to South Africa. It marks the fact that I am now someone who can meet with a group of strangers that I contacted over the internet.

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It’s obviously early days yet and my priority is still unpacking those flipping boxes as well as my freelance writing, working, running the household, making sure the kids are fed and clean, walking the dog etc. But I am starting to think about a project. Something I can do that is new, that marks this new stage in my life. I am someone who always needs to have something to look forward to, to work on. And I think when you repatriate  – especially if you are not sure you will move again – this is especially important. Otherwise it can feel a little like you have moved home just to wait to die.

I don’t know what this project will be yet – I am hopeful that something will present itself. It may be that I won’t know for months or even years to come. It could be that it’s already there, staring me in the face.

But for now, I will carry on as before with my work and looking after the kids and dog and basically, well, surviving.

And I WILL finish unpacking those boxes…

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14 thoughts on “I’m still here – just!

  1. I feel your pain. We repatriated 5 (5!) years ago and I still feel I could upsticks tomorrow and not miss this life. I’ve tried volunteering, working, studying and can’t settle to anything. To make matters worse, the other half was made redundant in May 2016 and was out of work for 14 long months. Much readjustment had to be done. However, he started a new job in August this year and is now based in Johannesburg, but travels so much it was not worth us moving 2 teenagers out there. I found your blog around that time, just as you were packing up to leave Pretoria.
    I have no answers – I feel at times like we are living in one of those snow globes and someone keeps shaking it. But we are all healthy and my kids are excelling at school and one is now at uni, so I take pride in a job well done. They are, after all, my life’s work.
    Be patient and try lots of different things while you can.

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  2. Good luck with the unpacking. If it helps we moved to the UK for a short posting when I was about your children’s age, perhaps a little younger and I was fascinated by the local dump. My favourite thing ever was to take the rubbish from the back of the car and throw it in the correct container. Packing boxes and paper was particularly satisfying!

    Before you know it this will all be a horrid memory and you will be settled. Good luck!

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  3. so glad you are still here! Take all the time you need to get back into your routine, but please don’t disappear completely! You have been a guiding light for many and I know I miss seeing your fun and thoughtful posts on the blogging scene.

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    • We went through months of agonizing whether to move home to the U.K., writing down the pros and cons etc. The cons had a longer list, but one pro (schooling) outweighed the cons so a decision was made. My only sage piece of advice is once a decision is made, own it, don’t regret it, be positive about that decision, don’t look back…

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  4. Hi Clara. I am a trailing husband on our second expat assignment. I stumbled across your blog in my process of creating my own. We moved to Athens, GR in July and I am still putting the house together. It takes forever. I am not looking forward to repatriation, if it ever comes…

    I hope things get back to normal with you. And, I look forward to catching up on your blog posts. Hopefully mine will be half as decent.

    Liked by 1 person

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