With everything that’s happened, we’ve been thinking seriously about going back to Britain — this will surprise no one, I’m sure, and it’s a natural enough gut reaction to all that’s going on. Let’s just go home, where we understand how things work and how to get around. Let’s just go home where we have contacts and friends to help us (never mind that’s one of the exact reasons we came over to the US). We’re getting to the point where neither of us knows where we really ought to be.
There is a point in this post by A Brit Different where she says that she can’t imagine dying and being buried in the US instead of her native Scotland because it feels so foreign, and that really struck a chord with me. M and I had a similar conversation just the other night, and he told me he didn’t want to die here — he’d realised he just couldn’t imagine ending his days so far from home. We moved here with the vague idea that this would be it, this would be a permanent move. But we began to revise that idea fairly quickly (starting the morning of our flight over). That M felt that way didn’t really surprise me, because expatting is like that — you just don’t know how it’s going to work for you until you do it — but I really didn’t expect repatting to effect me in such a similar way.
I think the question of where you expect (want?) to die is a very good test for an expat: it tells you where your heart truly calls home. The whole time I lived in Britain, I always assumed I’d be back in the US when it came time to die (at a ripe old age, mind you). In the early years abroad, that was a strong and natural assumption. As time went on, the idea of dying in Britain lost a bit of its foreignness, but it still felt strange enough that I just never imagined it would ever be the case.
Now we are here in the US and I am surprised — really surprised — to discover that I find myself feeling the same way about dying in America as I did all that time about dying in Britain. The idea feels as just as strange, just as unreal — and it feels like I’ve lost my bearings a bit. I’m not sure which direction to turn. I keep looking left, and then right, and then left again… and find myself rooted to the spot because I no longer know which direction to go in.
I wonder if it’s like this for all repats? Would M feel the same if we went back to Britain? But perhaps not… it more probably affects repats who have been long-term expats. It’s such a strange and unnerving thing, to lose your bearings like this — the bearings that anchor the very foundations of your life — and such a strange thing to have the realisation come so suddenly. In a way, it’s been oddly freeing for me as well. I feel like I could move back to the UK now — if we decided to — and live my life to its end there, without having that feeling that I am in the wrong place. Neither place feels right, neither place feels wrong.
We can go anywhere. We just have to decide.