In the past three years, I have spent a total of 18 days in the USA.
I lived in South Korea and Hong Kong. I visited Taiwan, Thailand, The Philippines, Malaysia, Macau and England. I’ve been to so many places and seen so many things that America seemed like a distant memory, a place that I knew but wasn’t a part of anymore.
And it’s true; I’m really not a part of America anymore.
I finally got to go home for the first time since I came to Hong Kong, and it was wonderful, exciting and heartbreaking. You leave home expecting everything to stay the same, in suspended motion until you decide to come back, thinking that everything will pick up exactly where you left off. In some ways that’s true, with family and good friends. I was so happy that, when talking with my friends, there wasn’t any weirdness, there weren’t any thoughts of, “Do I even know this person anymore?” It was like we had just spoken yesterday.
But people back home are still living their lives. They are growing, learning. They are becoming closer to and growing apart from each other. They are falling in love, moving in together, starting families. And you aren’t there to witness it. You can’t be an active part of what is going on; you can only give helpful words of support from a screen on the other side of the world.
The hardest thing about being an expat for me is the loneliness. It’s hard enough to make friends once you are out of college; it’s even harder when you’re in an environment where people aren’t from the same place as you and can’t relate to your life and experiences. Sure, one of the awesome things about living abroad is meeting people who are different, but you do need familiarity to keep you stable. It’s comforting.
However, people are constantly leaving, and new people are cycling in. It’s hard to get beyond the surface and develop close friendships with people, especially because you can get to be so closed off after a while, thinking, “Well, this person will just leave soon, and then I will have to start the whole thing over again. Why waste the time and effort?”
I missed home while I was still there, because I knew I would have to leave again. Home is people that you can just enjoy your time with; you don’t have to impress anyone. My best friends and I have all known each other since college and most of us have lived together at some point, so there’s no hiding anything and no pretending to be someone you’re not. They know your flaws and they like you anyway. They want you to be just you.
I’m trying to remind myself that if I went back to the USA tomorrow, my life wouldn’t be like my short, eight-day visit. Of course my visit was full of fun, of drinks and dinners out and parties. Living there wouldn’t be like that. Right before I moved to Korea, I was working in a job I hated, spending too much on basic living necessities like a car and rent, and I was bored and unhappy. But it’s hard not to look at my visit with rose-colored glasses and imagine what life could be like if I were to move back, especially when I’m pushing my way through the Hong Kong crowds (everyone walking slowly and looking at their cell phone, of course) to walk up the five floors to my overpriced apartment.
I know that Hong Kong is the best place for me know. I’ve got a good job, a wonderful boyfriend and a few great friends. A lot of people would kill for this opportunity, and I’m lucky enough to take advantage of it. I just wish I didn’t have to be so far away from the people I care about.
And Target. Why am I so far away from Target?