Knowing that I'm leaving has changed my relationship with Korea. Things about Seoul that I found annoying before now provoke only amused sighs. Things that I always liked shine a bit brighter. My friends here seem smarter, kinder, and more interesting. OK, not really the last one. They were always pretty interesting, actually. But you know what I mean. Once we stopped trying Korea on for size, both Mystery and I have both been able to relax and admit that it's not perfect, but it's an interesting place, and we've had a nice life here.
While moving to another continent is a pretty daunting endeavor, we've done it together twice already, and I had already done it a few times before I met Mystery, so we pretty much know the drill. Luckily, we didn't bring too many possessions to Korea when we came, and haven't acquired much here (other than tons of baby stuff, most of which we'll just give away). We're also not moving until June, so we have plenty of time to figure out the details. So, while our lives will be upheaved for a while, I'm not particularly stressed about it. And just to make things even better, we have already managed to arrange the rental of a gorgeous house for our first six months back in the US from a family that will be overseas themselves. So, we don't have to look for housing right away, and can look around a bit and see what neighborhood we'd like to live in and what kind of a home we want.
So, on a logistical level, everything seems to be going well. The one thing about this move that has me a little disconcerted is my own emotional reaction to moving back to my own country. I'm mostly feeling good about it, from a practical perspective, but I am feeling a bit wistful. I'm not sure how I feel about not being an expat anymore.
Many years ago, in a former life, I had a friend who went to Japan after graduating from college to teach English. After a couple of years in Japan, she returned to the US. I asked her how it was going, and she said that she was having an identity crisis. When she had been living in Japan, and people in the US asked what she was doing (meaning what was her job), she responded that she was living in Japan, teaching English. The living in Japan part came first. The teaching English was an afterthought. Living in Japan was, for her, the daily accomplishment from which she derived her sense of accomplishment and self-worth. Once back in the US, she went back to being one of millions of relatively new college graduates without much in the way of marketable job skills. She eventually found her way, but for a while there, she felt really lost.
I'm in a different situation, obviously. I am established in my career (which does not involve teaching English), have a husband and child, and have made quite a number of trips around the sun already, so I have a fairly secure sense of who I am. Moving back to the US won't, for me, result in a psychological demotion in the workplace, and I'm moving back with a job in hand. However, I admit that I am feeling a little strange about giving up the perceived glamor (for lack of a better word) of living "overseas". Of course, living in Korea isn't actually any more glamorous than living anywhere else (although the man-purses that I see in huge numbers every time I go out in public do make a compelling argument that Seoul is more self-consciously fashionable than most places). My life here is fairly ordinary on the surface. I go to work. Come home, have dinner. Sometimes get together with friends, etc. But, there is an automatic special something about living in a country that isn't your place of origin, at least for me. The fact that the sights that I see, the sounds that I hear, the smells in the air, and the tastes of the food are different from those that I think of as "ordinary" puts an extra little sparkle on my day on most days. After over two years, I am used to living here, and some of that sparkle has faded into the clear light of day, but there are still moments every day when I take a deep breath and just appreciate the incredible luck that I've had that allowed me the experience of living here.
And soon it will be over. There will be new joys, new sparkles, and new adventures. I'll be able to put down some tentative new roots without any immediate expectation of pulling them up again down the road. I'll be closer to my family, most of my friends, places that sell the foods that I have been missing for so long. These things are huge, and I'm excited about them. But I don't know when, or if, I'll get the chance to live "overseas" again, which makes me a little sad. And I wonder if, when I get back to the US, having seen what I've seen, learned what I've learned, lived where I've lived, I'll fit in.