What is home? i.e. Expat life musings as we prepare to move

So in typical “ME” style, I wrote this in December 2016 and it is now mid-way through February 2017 and I am just posting it……  I am just going to leave it as is, even though in the last two months I have made the move that I was so unsure of, and I can write the sequel to this post.  Stay tuned…..

I honestly have so much going on in my life and inside my head right now that I sit here nearly paralyzed at what to attend to first.  So capitalizing on one of my stronger skills, procrastination, I have decided to write instead of “do.”  I was about to post a photo to Instagram of some of my dear friends and I on the beach, commemorating the end of an era for the three of us, as two of us make pretty large life-shifts, and I was choking up as I typed, and I thought, “Right, I have so much more to say about this than I can peck in to my little phone.”

Saying “Goodbye” to this season of life with my dear friends, our beach walks, coffees, and chats, is really so symbolic of everything that I am about to say goodbye to at this moment.  Our move to Hong Kong has been so long in coming that it always seemed so far away, but it has suddenly crept up on me, and I’m realizing, processing, digesting, so much about the last 5 years of my life.  It has got me thinking about “What is home?” and what I want in a home.


I am American by birth, and all of my family still lives there.  Both of my sisters live within 30 minutes of my parents and I don’t see them ever leaving the area where we were raised.  As a child and young adult I adventured abroad in small and very structured ways.  I guess I was drawn to the world outside of Utah when I was young.  My Mom was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay area and my Grandparents lived there until they passed away.  We would visit every Summer and I always loved going to the Bay Area, I even secretly imagined myself moving there as a grown woman, wearing fancy work clothes, and being a “business woman,” whatever that means.  When I was 14 I went to Southern Germany for a month in an exchange program with the private school where I attended.  Our exchange student Lisa came to our house in Utah for a month in the Fall, and then I went and stayed with her the following June.  After my Freshman Year at University I spent the Summer in Vienna, Austria on a Study Abroad Program.  I absolutely fell in LOVE with Vienna and wished at the time that I could find a way to stay, but practicality drew me back to the secure path of a University degree.

That might have been the end of my little wanderings if it weren’t for my severely gallivanting, Wanderlust-affected husband.  Clarke has sent us on a path from-here-there-to-everywhere and to be honest, even though some of the moves have been quite difficult, I feel so lucky to have called so many places home, even if just for a little while.  As we bounced from Utah-to-China-to-California-to-Florida-to-China-to-Auckland I never felt that pull of “home,” a place I wanted to put down roots and stay.  I liked Southern California, but the cost of living scared me (and to be honest, I was clinically depressed while we lived there, but was so clueless I didn’t even realize it), Florida was dreamy, but it was so far from family (didn’t see New Zealand ahead of me so I might not have thought that if I had known!) and the schools worried me a little, China, well do I really need to say anything?  It’s China.  No one goes there to emigrate.  Well, at least any of the people I knew.  It was a place to borrow for a while, take advantage of the expat lifestyle, and move on with more money in your pocket and a bunch of stamps in your passport from all the travel you did with your extra money (but in classic us style, we weren’t there as expats, we were there as students, what is wrong with us???!!!).

That, “a place to borrow” mentality is how we arrived in Auckland in February 2012.  Originally we were only supposed to be here for an 18 month rotation, do 6 months somewhere outside of New Zealand, and then take on a 2 year roll in yet another country after that.  To which I quickly requested a full 2 years not long after arriving, not wanting to somewhere for just 6 months with an incredibly active and social 4 year old Oliver.

After being here for a year and a bit I basically said to Clarke, “I really like it here, please find a way to stay.”  Being the accommodating husband that he is, and the fact that he really liked it too, he was able to acquire a roll that worked for the Bank and for him to stay in New Zealand for another 2 years, making 4 years in total.  While we were in that 4th year we realized that we would have to stay another year because we were in the middle of the adoption process and while moving country is possible, it just prolongs the process, requires even more paperwork (is this humanly possible?), and gobs more money (i.e. you have to re-do your home study, which when you live outside of your home country means that you must fly your social worker in for a new home study).  So here we are, ramping up to the end of that 5 years and you know what?  My heart is B.R.E.A.K.I.N.G……

I broke down in tears the other night to Clarke as the weight of how much this move is hurting and will continue to hurt, pummeled my heart.  School ends in less than a week and as I drive around, just doing my normal routine, school drop-off, after school activities, Playcentre with Mia, beach walks, teaching yoga, etc., and it’s like I can feel my heart breaking in slow motion.  As each activity approaches it’s, “last time I do X, or Y” the crack slowly edges on.  And it is feeling this heaviness in my heart that I feel and see that Auckland has truly become my H.O.M.E., a place I feel I want to stay for a long, long time, a place I W.A.N.T to raise my children, a place I want to grow old in.  I always knew I L.O.V.E.D New Zealand, but it is taking leaving to see how much it has become my home.

It isn’t just the fact that we have been here over 2 times longer than we have been in any other location since we married.  It isn’t just that this is the place where I really came in to my own as a mother.  It isn’t just that this is the place that we brought Mia into our family.  It’s all those things and so much more.  It is that I am an ocean person.  I may have been born and raised in Utah, a high desert with huge mountains and proper four full seasons, but I am actually an ocean lover at heart.  I may only get in the ocean in places like Florida and The Marshall Islands (it’s like bath water!), but I absolutely L.O.V.E the energy and power of the ocean, beach walks are like my medicine.  It’s that the Devonport Peninsula has pretty much everything you want for raising a young family, wonderful early childhood education (PLAYCENTRE!!!!!), every sport and dance class imaginable, kids learn sailing at school (too bad not until Year 5), and there are more beaches and amazing playgrounds within 10 minutes of my house than I can count on both hands.  It’s that we can live in Suburban paradise, but be only a 10 minute ferry ride away from The City Centre.  Where else in the world do you actually look forward to your commute?  It’s that I have really developed myself as a yoga teacher and practitioner here.  I had barely heard of Yin Yoga before I came to New Zealand and now it is my greatest passion as a teacher, and the friendships that I have developed with other yoga teacher friends have been so soul satisfying.  It’s that I finally addressed mental health issues that were so debilitating to me, and can now look at my life and truly see the joy.  It’s that I have looked at what I believe and think about religion and have let go of things that no longer serve me.  It’s that I have grown and blossomed more into myself here than I have anywhere at any age.

So what do you do with a heart that is breaking in slow motion?  Hold on, don’t push the sadness away, feel it fully, because that means you are really alive and you really cared.  Being sad to leave means that the last 5 years were good to me, and for that I am grateful.  The most valuable lesson I have learned teaching and practicing Yin Yoga is art of observation.  I can see my sadness, watch it, but I don’t have to be consumed by it, and I don’t have to pretend it isn’t there.  I just watch.  Just like sitting in an intense Yin Pose, where you want to fidget and get out before the teacher or the timer tells you to, just watch, and wait patiently, the intensity doesn’t last forever……




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