There and back again: an ex-expat's tale, one year on via

It’s a year since we uprooted our lives and moved back to Sydney. The year has been so hard, like I wrote about here for the WSJ, but it’s also been rewarding.

I haven’t written much about our move because at the time it was too painful. My dad suffered a sudden fatal arrhythmia at the end of January, which landed him in the ICU without much hope of recovery. We received the call in the middle of the night in New York and jumped on the first plane home. The two days we had in transit were hell. All I could think of was that it had been two years since I’d seen my dad, and two years since he’d seen his only grandchild, and how neither of us might ever speak with him again. On a guilt and remorse scale, I was at 100 out of 10.

Back in Australia, my dad made a slow, miraculous recovery, and we decided that our family needed to be together, for all of our sakes. For my parents to develop a close relationship with Cheese, and for me to spend as much time with them as possible, too.

Leaving behind a life I loved with my whole heart was difficult, but I was lucky to have another life to go back to that was in a safe, beautiful country, and filled with friends and family. So really, it wasn’t a hardship to anything other than my wanderlust.

A year in, and we are happy. Cheese and her grandparents are close. She loves spending time with them. Nothing makes her happier than when she asks what we’re doing that day and I say we’re visiting Nana and Pop-pop. Her little face lights up and she dances her way down to the car with joy. This is why we made the sacrifice. The most important thing in life is what’s best for our child, and being with loved ones. I might regret leaving behind the life I’d always dreamed of having in New York, but that’s nothing compared to what we’ve gained by being back in Australia, and how much I would have regretted not moving back.

Life as an expat is exciting. It’s a life-changing adventure that is hard to say goodbye to if you’re not ready. What I struggled with the most with was finding a place where I belonged back in Australia when my heart was in New York.

A year in though, and things are good. They’re more than good – we are happy. I’ve found a new blogging community, reconnected with old friends and even made some new ones. Cheese is loving preschool and being able to run around outdoors every day of the year (ok, except for the torrential tropical rain days we occasionally get in Sydney).

I look back at my time in New York as some of the best years of my life so far – and I expect of my entire life. I’ve been away long enough to appreciate the good and bad in both countries, and to love both my homes. The energy and thrill of life in New York, and the natural beauty and warm climate of Australia. Both homes are beautiful. I am blessed.

That’s the thing about being an expat. When you get attached to your new “home”, what does that mean for your old one if you do go back? I like to think that we have two homes, and that home is where your heart lives, not just your shoes. New York will forever be our home. It’s where Cheese was born. Where I was born again as a mother. It’s where I struggled with the hardest year of my life with a new baby, and came out the other side a stronger person. And yet, Sydney is forever my home too. My place of birth, where I spent my entire childhood, where my family and majority of friends all live. And my ties to Sydney go even deeper, still. I feel a connection to Australia that runs in my blood. A pride of my homeland and a sense of belonging, no matter how long I travel abroad. Two homes. Will there be more?

We are heading off on Saturday on an around the world adventure, including our first trip back to New York after leaving. I’m excited and a little nervous. How will it feel to be back? Will it be hard to leave?

5 comments on “There And Back Again, An Ex-Expat’s Tale”

  1. Beautiful post Christine! This expat is glad to have you in Sydney. Enjoy visiting your other home J x

  2. Great post. I remember coming back to Sydney, after living abroad for a year, was rather odd. Took a while to get back into it all. For a while I felt like I didn’t fit in either place. Grandparents are awesome – so wonderful that you can spend this time with them. New York will always be there when and if you ever want to return!

  3. I can soooo relate to this. It’s been five years since we’ve moved back to Sydney, and I STILL can’t write about it. I lost my grandma soon after arriving home. But since having a baby, the hardest thing was missing London and the wonderful lifestyle I had. I still don’t *love* Sydney – the traffic, bad public transport and house prices get me down. I resent driving a car. I didn’t own one until I was 36, as I’d always lived inner-city and never needed a car. But I’m glad that my son has such a close relationship with both sets of his grandparents. That’s the one (and basically) only thing that I’m happy about since moving back. Focusing on the unique stuff I *do* like about Sydney also helps with the day-to-day.

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