Maria Habets has written a two part article at I Am Expat on Reinventing Yourself. It is a timely article for me as I grappling with the question of my own identity and what shape it will take when we are back ‘home’.
I left Melbourne 14 years ago – the day after my wedding. We left for Sydney and a new job for my husband. Little did I know that this would be the beginning of a definite pattern in my life. However, it was not an entirely new experience as I had spent my childhood moving from state to state as my father’s career developed.
As a child, I recreated myself within the confines of the schoolyard. Although each school was different there was a security in the similarities of routine. An adult trailing spouse does not experience the same comfort.
I do not recall following a process that even vaguely resembles the suggestions Maria Habets puts forth in her article. However, I have taken the opportunity to step out and experience new things in each of the different locations I’ve lived.
Our first posting was in Singapore and I still remember this as being the hardest I have experienced. While there is a large expat community, it is not as tight as others as it is relatively easy to integrated into the community. Being young (in my mid 20’s) without children or a career, I was very lonely. So much so I began looking for a job very early on. When I did finally find one, I struggled to accept the vast difference in my salary compared to what I had been earning at home. My husband’s attempts to reassure me that it wasn’t about the money (as we could more than comfortably live off his wage) did little to improve my self esteem. So I applied for a new role – mother.
I arrived in Shanghai three months pregnant with our first child. I quickly made friends but still needed something to do while I waited for my new toy to present herself. I heard about an American potter who was giving classes close to our apartment. I had missed out on taking pottery in high school and saw this as my grand opportunity to become an expert potter. I had visions of setting up my own wheel, making beautiful bowls, plates and teapots. Unfortunately my growing belly impeded all my efforts. Plus my hands hurt and became very dry. Potting was not for me.
I arrived in the US pregnant with our son and immediately joined a baby group and watched my toddler swipe other kids drinks. When my son reached the same age, I was encouraged to try homeschooling our children. I tried it. Homeschooling is not for me. However, the research I conducted has shown me that there is more than one approach to education. This has helped me to keep an open mind. An invaluable technique when country hopping becomes a lifestyle.
Back in Singapore again but this time as a mum of two. What to do, what to do? After reestablishing some friendships, I decided to locate my inner lady of leisure and employ a live in maid. Although only a brief experience, I did enjoy it. We left for Copenhagen before I found myself looking for a new hobby to fill my time.
Copenhagen has seen some major changes in my life. With both children now at school, there was a huge need to find new ways to employ my time. Consequently I now knit, run and am taking tentative steps into the world of quilting. In the last year I have increased my involvement in the school and taken a position on the PTA. Not something I would have predicted.
Contemplating our return to Melbourne and the impact it will have on my identity has made me anxious. I am now at a point where the not knowing leads me to a place of calm. I can’t predict what shape my life will take beyond the scope of wife and mother. I could never have predicted the roles mentioned above. There are surprises in my future and I am looking forward to embracing them with the same enthusiasm that I embraced those in my past.