As you may now Dear Reader, I am an expat. That means I live in a country other than the one that I was born in…and yet, I am not an immigrant. Expats are those who go to other countries for professional reasons, not necessarily looking for opportunity, but who are just working, planning on staying a couple of years, and then usually leaving to either the next post or back home. This week I’ve returned to the United States from Germany where I live for a short visit and I’ve been thinking a lot about the action of returning. How do we see something familiar anew and through the prism of gained life experience? It is a strange and yet extremely fulfilling thing to return and I believe it can offer great insight into how exactly we progress in life.
Whenever I return to the United States, I am first of all reminded of the great scale of things. Where Europe is somewhat scaled down, more concentrated, and immediate, the USA is broad, pregnant with wide open spaces, big unblocked skies and sunshine. Even overcast days are still somehow bright. I can well understand just how impressed many immigrants must have been upon arrival in this country. I am reminded of boundless possibilities, the time that journeys can take, and the distance one has to go to arrive at where one is going. Naturally, I speak of these aspects in both the literal and figurative senses, but it is the more interpretive and implied notions that are paramount in my mind these days.
Although, I’m enjoying my time being back here in my homeland, my mind has already begun to return to the things that I need to do once I get back to Europe…and there are even things that I’ve already started missing there…mostly friends. Isn’t it funny how when we are in one place, our minds often turn to another place and right the other way around? Perhaps our minds are amazed and intrigued by the other side of the coin. Maybe we always need that comparative other, the counterpart, in order to know where we are and what we’re doing and to fully appreciate what exactly we are doing in this very moment. Maybe returning, or at least the prospect of returning, is what keeps us anchored to the moments that we are away.
Needless to say, I’m having a great time so far, and have been able to really enjoy the time here. I am glad to have returned to my home and I look forward to living here again some day in the not too distant future. I’m happy to know that there is some place in the world that I can always return to, that will always offer me an alternative. My life is enriched by the ability to limb the not only the physical space, but also the notion of another place.