Moving “Home” After Living Abroad
Have I changed, or has everyone else changed?
This is the question I seem to ask myself daily, wondering constantly: is it them, or me?
Three years ago I moved abroad to Heidelberg, Germany. I didn't know anyone, I didn't know a soul, and I was applying for a visa with my husband and out two dogs.
The plan was to live abroad for three years. And we did. We fought for a visa, struggled to find an apartment, and traveled to nearly every country in Europe, sometimes traveling for weeks at a time.
Then, on August 10th, 2019 we moved back home. To our home we owned and rented out. We bought two cars and decided to reestablish our lives in Dallas, Texas.
After taking a boat home from England to New York, we headed back to Texas.
But things just aren't the same.
People always ask me: “Do you have culture shock?” or “Do you miss life abroad?” And my response is yes and no. Of course I miss some of the things about living abroad. But I also wanted to come home. It was a conscious choice. I missed home and the things about life at home. But it is true that things just aren't the same.
I despise change. To the point of madness really. I want to hold on to things and how they were in the past. I often romanticize past events, thinking on them with rose colored glasses and missing the details that made them a reality.
My friends have changed the most. And that's the hardest thing for me to process. I feel like I haven't changed, but in reality I know that's not true. Everyone changes because we have to grow up, take on new responsibilities, and challenges.
Priorities seemed to have shifted. Which is normal. We're older.
My initial reaction was very different to Michael's. Granted, he had to deal with much more bureaucracy than I did in Heidelberg. He was ready to come home and get a bit of a break.
I'm not sure if I've always been like this, but now I have a driving force to always be in pursuit. What's my next goal? What's the next chapter?
I keep feeling distracted, I'll sit down to write (a book, I'll add) and my mind suddenly floods with doing other things.
At night, I dream about where I've lived or places I've been and wake up, a bit confused that I'm at home, in bed.
Life back in Dallas is different than it used to look. I've never worked for myself while living in Dallas. Not having to commute or have a set schedule is throwing me through a loop. Do I blog? Take photos? Work on my novel?
Because of my flexibility and freedom I find myself not always getting everything done. Instead opting to spend time with friends.
One of the best parts of moving back home has been spending time with friends and family. My group of girlfriends are unparalleled. We've all been friends since grade school and when we get together we laugh so hard, I'm often brought to tears. I don't remember the last time I've been so fulfilled by friendships and that's one of my saving graces for being home.
Truth be told, I'm struggling. I feel bad saying that or even thinking it. I don't have real struggles. I'm not sick. I'm getting to do my dream job.
I went from a life of almost constantly being on the move to settling down in a familiar place that's somehow changed. And while I'm still buzzing with energy from my trips, people have moved on, lived life. We don't often discuss what it was like to travel Montenegro in the heat of summer. Which is normally and totally fine, but sometimes I catch myself drifting off and thinking about the past, unfocused on what's happening right in front of me.
I look at images of Heidelberg or pictures from my travels and I feel a quick pang of sadness. Maybe not just because I miss it, but because I know that it won't ever be the same. People keep telling me, “You could go back.” Sure, of course. But I tend to mourn the passing of time more than anything. And I think moving home was the biggest realization that I am getting older and things do change. You can't change that. You have to glide with time.
For whatever reason I'm having trouble readjusting to life here. Things bother me so severely that might not have ever irritated my before. The over consumerism seems to be rampant and I can feel it creeping in on me as I drive to Marshall's to peruse the sale racks and purchase unnecessary Halloween decorations.
I went from not purchasing a pumpkin in 3 years, to now have 7 real ones and 10 fake pumpkins to arrange artfully around our house and front porch.
Am I doing this for myself? To fit in? Or to feel settled? I'm not sure.
And, of course, it's not just buying things or watching others buy things. There are lots of difference between living in America and Germany. I once wrote a post about “What I Hate About Living Abroad.” To be fair, I got a lot of flack for it. But I could easily write one just as long (or longer) about living in America.
There are bad and good things about every place and situation.
I find myself walking the aisle of Kroger in a daze. The rows of bright colored cereal boxes that seem infinite are overwhelming: what do I choose?!
I love being home to enjoy Halloween, Fall, upcoming holidays, soda the size of my head, and looking at this world I grew up in through renewed eyes.
I love the ability to hop in a car and find a parking spot, and usually it's not even parallel. I love being able to get necessities whenever I need. America is certainly convenient, and while that might sound passé, it was a big problem in Germany.
But there is a part of me that feels that I don't feel settled here anymore.
I know that I'll get resettled. I know I'll figure out my right path. It might just take longer than expected.
For now, I'm going to throw myself into writing a book, spending time with people, and trying to appreciate the things that make this now somewhat foreign place feel like home.
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