Home for the Summer – The Bond That Keeps Us Close

When I went overseas to teach in an International School I vowed to stay close to my family and friends back home. And I did. We Facebook-ed. I flew home every winter and summer vacation. I continued to be part of their lives, and they part of mine.

..As my years overseas turned into 11, 12 and more, staying “caught-up” with folks back home was….well, it wasn’t happening as I had planned. Not being there to experience life together on a daily basis put me out of touch. It didn’t help that I was returning home less often, opting to stay put and/or travel with colleagues sharing the international experience along with me.

..Long stretches of absence stealthily changed my relationship with family and friends. I’m far more than just a visitor when I do return home, but the “vibe” isn’t the same as if I were living there. I wasn’t around for my dad’s 82nd birthday bash, the birth of a good friend’s son, a wedding, a funeral, a graduation, a friend winning the battle with a dreaded disease, and the like. It’s shared experiences, good and bad, that grow relationships.

..It’s just not the same when you’re thousands of miles away witnessing life-impacting events on Facebook.  Through years and miles of separation I’ve slipped into the status of distant friend and even distant relative to some family members. I’ve been asked why I can’t be “happy” with good ‘ole American friends and neighborhoods. I keep my ever-expanding language skills to myself while back home. No one wants to hear about my like-minded colleagues/friends who share my “exotic” lifestyle. I’ve been accused of “bragging endlessly” about my around-the-world adventures when asked what I’ve “been up to” in far-flung posts.

..This summer I decided to make the trip home. No one wants to hear about, or can relate to my tales of climbing mountains to visit Buddhist Temples on rocky hill tops, scuba diving off tropical reefs in Thailand, or the fact I’m pretty good at three languages. Conversely, I don’t relate to their satisfaction in climbing the corporate ladder and amassing more and more stuff, most of it crammed into closets and the dank corners of garages. But underneath it all, we all know who each other is at heart, and that’s the bond that keeps us together through the years and miles. I just mostly listen and smile within, glad to be home.

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5 Responses to Home for the Summer – The Bond That Keeps Us Close

  1. Lauren says:

    We have been away 20 years now .. even though we planned to be away only a year.
    As time progressed, I found that my ‘ home country’ has become a strange,alien place.. where things seem familiar .. abet slightly out of focus.
    New roads and even suburbs spring up seemingly overnight, but for the most part my friends and family are still doing pretty much the same as when I left.

    Initially I found this very disconcerting … particularly in the early days when no one was interested in the exciting adventures I was having and i equally was struggling to understand how, even though I was away for years at a time, very little had changed for them.

    After another (very) unsuccessful trip I was complaining about the gulf developing between us. Me not understanding why they had changed so little, and we’re not interested in my exciting adventures, and them not understanding what it was that keeps me years at a time from my birth country.

    On hearing this, a very wise and experienced expat explained the syndrome to me and I try to keep it in my head for the times I go home.

    She said that for the most part your friends and family are like planets.. busy on their own orbit but pretty much going about their business with very little change in their lives . We, on the other hand are like comets.. we fly into their orbit at light speed, disrupt their lives with tales of excitement and wonder and race out and even though they are often glad to see you, they are equally happy to see the back of you and resume the orbit that is their lives.

    It has helped me get through many a tense or boring home visit.


  2. Anonymous says:

    I am on year 15. Coming from a small farm town in the US, I have little in common with childhood friends at this stage and although it is nice to catch up a bit, we are just worlds apart. If you don’t particularly like your “home” town, once a year is more than enough for some of us…


  3. traveler says:

    I’m home this summer for the first time in years. I’m remembering why I stay away. The general consensus is I’m throwing my future away.


  4. once around the block says:

    Great article ISR. It hit home with me. I don’t get back home often but when I do I love the feeling that we all have a history together.

    The people I meet overseas and work with are recent history. They don’t know the events in my life that make me who I am and I don’t know those things about them.

    It’s the old saying. Make new friends and keep the old – one is silver and the other, gold.


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