Repatriating doesn’t get talked about as much as going overseas, though many expats find it just as much of a challenge.
My family and I have been back in the U.S. for about six months now, and our journey to feel settled here has definitely had its rocky parts. Below is something I wrote during some of the harder days, when I felt very separated from all that was happening around me. I feel like I’ve come out of the dark tunnel (or, as this illustration would say, I’ve made it to step 8 on the W-curve roller coaster), so it’s actually strange for me to go back and read what I wrote during the tough times. It’s like reading the thoughts of a different person. In some ways, that’s exactly what it is.
Repatriating is a long-haul flight.
Once the door is shut, there’s no going back. You hope you remembered everything. You know you’ll have to make do without whatever you forgot.
Far below, the world keeps on spinning, keeps on moving. You are far above, untethered, disconnected from the real world, moving at a different pace but not feeling the progress.
You’re tired, but you can’t get comfortable enough to rest. You’re hungry, but nothing tastes good in the air. Maybe you should read or try to get work done, but you can’t quite get the motivation to do anything. Everything is too much effort.
You distract yourself with entertainment, but keep switching back to the map to see, how much longer? How much longer will this go on? How much longer until I feel like I’m on solid ground? It’s hard to tell, even when the flight stats are staring right back at your tired eyes.
You’re supposed to feel happy. You’re supposed to feel sad. But you’re not sure you feel anything.
You can see the world. There it is, just outside the window. At once beautiful and uninteresting, vast and too far away, soothing and overwhelming. Even if you want to engage, you can’t. You’re still on this side of the glass. Is the glass holding you back or holding you safe?
Neither your origin nor your destination seem believable. Was I really there? Was I really me? It’s all blurry compared to the loud hum of the engines. Nothing is settled. Nothing but forward motion is keeping you from plummeting and crashing.
Eventually, you’ll land. Eventually, you’ll walk on solid ground again, and everything will be alright. Each person’s flight takes a different amount of time and follows a different route. For now, sit back, relax, and know that it’s perfectly normal to not enjoy the flight.
I thought it was useful to share with you, though. While the majority of Taking Route readers are living overseas, at least some of you have repatriated, or plan to repatriate soon. I’d love to hear your thoughts on the whole repatriation process and what life as a “repat” is like for you.