Moving Back “Home” After 13 Years Abroad + Why I’m Finally Happy to be Home
What’s it like moving back home after 13 years abroad? Surreal.
I think that’s the best word I’ve been able to come up to describe moving back home after so many years away. And the funny part is that technically, NYC isn’t even home if your definition of home is where you’re from/born. I had always defined home as where my parents live as that was my constant. I moved from city to city, country to country every two years or so from when I was born. But then NYC also became a constant and “home” was born. But somehow along those years, my definition of home evolved yet again. You see, I felt like Singapore was home. The longer I lived there, the longer it started feeling like home.
For once, it felt like I was truly building a life there. I had my amazing friends and you guys, I even had a decorated my apartment, well Chun decorated for me (I’m planning on writing a post giving you a home tour really for me, but you guys benefit! 😉 ) I had never hung up any photos up on the walls; my style was non-existent. That was such a big deal to me because I always lived ready to go the next day.
So why did I leave it all behind? In a nutshell, I missed my family. And as much as Singapore was feeling like home, even there life is forever changing as friends came and then left to go back home.
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It’s crazy to think that’s it’s been about 6 months since I returned back to NYC and I guess it’s slowly sinking in that this is not just a holiday. That my return ticket back to Singapore doesn’t exist; that the place I sleep every night is my new, old home. It’s a place I’m very familiar with, in fact, it’s the same studio I lived in for 6 years prior to moving to London. It’s the same neighborhood where I walked with a certain cockiness as only one has at that age. The from before I started on my overseas journey that is so familiar yet so different. Sure, the same stores, bars and restaurants are still there but there are also new stores, bars and restaurants. There is a lot of roadwork going on as well and frankly, it’s loud.
So yes, I’m home. But damn, that reverse culture shock hits you hard. A place I knew so well was all of a sudden so disorientating; the American culture, so familiar, was all of a sudden so jarring. They say the four stages of culture shock is honeymoon; frustration; adjustment and acceptance. I definitely agree, I definitely feel like I experienced all of that, but this common definition of culture shock doesn’t list one of the stages: depression.
The first month or so that I was back, I was super excited to be home to see my parents, my brother and SIL and my nephews. But then the euphoria wore off, after all my parents had a routine that I had disrupted and that they were getting back into. Of course their routine is a little different now in the sense that I come over for dinner once a week or so. Or I’m able to help out with certain things, but my visions of hanging out every day and night talking and laughing had to be readjusted and my expectations revised. Which was definitely frustrating. I was home! Their first born child was home, why aren’t you paying me the attention I deserve/need/want?!?!
Realizing that my visions of coming home were not quite met, if you will, I then slipped into a depression. I missed my life back in Singapore something fierce. I missed my friends; I missed my apartment and the space I had; and really, I missed the life I had known for almost 7.5 years. I missed being somewhere every day and having to get dressed. I spent a lot of time on my couch just aimlessly playing endless hours of Candy Crush or watching The Dodo and having HGTV on the background. I was not a nice person during that time period. I was picking fights with K and just generally being a bitch. So thank you, K, for still being here! <3
NYC is everything Singapore is not. It’s loud, it’s obnoxious, it’s dirty, it’s smelly, it’s big and it’s expensive. Being in the US, I also realized the insane amount of choices you have on a daily basis. When you go to the drugstore there are aisles and aisles of everything. Ten brands of deodorant, of moisturizer; twenty brands of shampoo, etc – how do you pick what you need? I honestly remember being in the yogurt aisle at the supermarket and I was paralyzed with choice. In the end, I walked out sans yogurt because I didn’t know which one to buy.
On another note, can we talk about how easy shopping is here in terms of everything is delivered to you in a couple of days or so, if even! Like a mattress or a headboard. What the actual hell is this witchery?? I mean okay, I’m not gonna lie and I totally went crazy and re-decorated my house; I love this convenience but there’s something to be said about having to wait for things…
When I did meet up with friends, I realized how different our view of the world is. It’s so easy to see the world from the lens of the US media and sure, you can read a news publication from another country, but really, when you’re living and breathing in a different culture, coming back is hard. I found their views and even my parents views to be quite myopic and that’s not to criticize them, it is what it is. We are just seeing the world from two differing viewpoints now.
But truthfully, and I’m not sure I’ve ever admitted this to anyone, except maybe Ana! But going back to NYC scared the crap out of me. I hated the fact that I was coming back to the same apartment that I had left; that I came back without a job and not married!! It felt like all those years away meant nothing. That I had failed in life.
Don’t go down that hole…! But down I went.
I’m not sure when the change in mindset started, but a couple of months ago, the fog started to lift. I wasn’t beating myself up anymore as frequently as I was. I was desperately trying to be nice to myself. To give myself grace and to find the fire I had burning inside me that somehow got extinguished.
I worked out almost every day at home – I discovered Beachbody on Demand and started the Morning Meltdown 100 where I was part of a FB accountability group. I have never met the women in my group, but we were all rallying for each other and “showing up” each day by posting a sweaty selfie really made a world of difference.
After working out, I would then make myself sit down behind a computer most days for a few hours or on some days more as I got caught up with something. I was taking the SEO course as I had previously mentioned here. Sitting down and learning something new was just what I needed, I think.
And now here we are. I do still miss my friends and the life I had, but now I can say I have finally made peace with my new reality; my new life. I am happy and optimistic about the future. I am looking forward to growing this blog and to getting a job. I’m happy to have K by my side – I am no longer picking fights with him! And it’s nice to have my parents a 10 minute walk from me where I can meet up with them for lunch or dinner.
I have slowly decorated my little studio; actually when we first arrived I was desperately trying to make this space feel like I belonged here and went crazy decorating. I bought a rug that was much like my previous one and a coffee table and standing lamp to go with it. I still need a new dining table and chairs but that’s not a priority at the moment and then down the road, a new couch. But it’s been nice to make this place mine and not have it feel so temporary. Luckily, things like Amazon Prime and Wayfair exist that ship to you right away!
I’m definitely in the acceptance stage of culture shock and now that I’m here, I can say I’m finally happy to be home. I’ve got a little routine that works and am taking full advantage of the gorgeous weather we’ve been having and walking, walking, walking. I feel like my old self again.
Whew! If you made it all the way to the end, I owe you a drink! Have a good week ahead and come back later this week for another post! 😉