Compare and Contrast

May 11, 2010

in adapting, life changes, reflection

I know people want to hear about China. And maybe that’s why I haven’t posted here in three weeks–because I’ve wanted to write about stuff other than my trip.

Shanghai was great. I still can’t believe I went to a place as exotic as China.

I spent time with my oldest friend–we met in first grade–, who has been teaching English in Shanghai since last May. I saw a temple, Chinese architecture, the Bund and the view of Shanghai from atop the Oriental Pearl Tower, lazed in People’s Park, watched all the signs and preparations for the World Expo, celebrated my friend’s birthday at a fab club and ate lots of good food (fried bullfrog included) and drank lots of good cocktails. I felt like I was on vacation, and it was amazing to see my friend after so long.

I was happy to get back to Sydney. But when I did, I found myself feeling surprisingly…lost. The day I left for my trip was my three-month anniversary in Oz. With the initial sparkle of such a colossal relocation faded, I felt like I had to get down to some sort of “business.” The business of what, I had no idea. My friend, who will almost definitely be staying in China for at least another year, also happened to be the first person I’ve seen from back home since coming here, which I think played a role in my strange mood.

After a week and a half of processing these feelings, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’ve reached the “compare and contrast” phase of expat existence. I am measuring how I feel now that I’ve really started living a normal life in Australia to how I felt living my life in the States. Maybe I was afraid of what my feelings would tell me, and that’s why I felt off–and avoidant–last week.

It’s so strange to miss the people you love back home so much, but find yourself feeling happier in a place so far away from them. It almost feels as if I’m being a traitor. I think the truth I’ve been so afraid of isn’t what I initially feared coming here–that it wouldn’t work out, that I’d be on a plane to Newark Airport faster than you can say “Wollongong.”

The truth–and maybe it took seeing a friend who made a similar move and is happy she made it, despite missing home herself–is that I feel happy and healthy here and can maybe see myself staying for longer than a year, if fate, and Australian Immigration, permits it. I already feel like nine more months is not enough time–and I’ve been doing and seeing a lot since I got here.

I know I’m missing things back home. I know that all my friendships and connections might not survive my time here. I know that almost all of the people in this world who love me are on American soil and that I don’t have a soul who feels that way about me in Australia.

But…I don’t want to feel like I need to rush to experience things because I’m on borrowed time OR because I feel like people back home won’t understand if I extend my absence. I know I can’t stay forever, but I want to be able to go when I’m ready to go. Maybe that sounds selfish or self-indulgent. But it’s where I’m at.

4 Comments - Add Yours!

  1. KT

    Living abroad is never easy. You want to make a life for yourself in your new country, but at the same time, you want to still hold onto what your life was like in the States.

    The friendships that survive the long distance are the friendships worth keeping.

    I'm glad you're back – I've missed reading about your adventures!


  2. Andrea

    I know it isn't exactly the same, as I still live in the US, but this is how I felt after I moved to Oregon. Ross and I were going to stay for two years… (It's approaching 4 years now!!) then we were going to stay for 5… But now I'm in school, have friends and a new lifestyle that I've adopted and I honestly can't imagine not living here…

    It's rough when you fall in love with a place that was never yours. You fall into it place and suddenly, it IS yours and it is REALLY hard to leave. I admire your leaving the states and making that journey!!! You're kind of my hero!!!

    Personally, I think you should stay until January 2012 so I can visit you while I'm there!!! (just a thought!!!) 😉

  3. Lindsay McHugh

    If you figure out how to get immigration on your side, do share. That's going to be your biggest obstacle. Leaving before you're ready is one of the hardest bits. Keep enjoying yourself x

  4. Adri

    I'll be moving from NYC to Australia (Brisbane) in two weeks, and it's such a relief to read how you're enjoying your time there. I've got the same initial fear in the back of my mind; what if it doesn't work out or I don't like it… Good to know someone else overcame it! Thanks for writing this.


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