I’m practically through our second summer as expats and am wondering if this season will ever be easy for me. I’ve mentioned to Cody several times recently how much I miss the heat and sun of San Diego—it still feels strange to look at the calendar and know that it’s August, but to be wearing sweaters, pants, and closed-toe shoes. In the sixteen weeks between May and August, we’ve had eight three day weekends due to various holidays. It doesn’t matter, I am still jealous anytime I see someone post a photo in a tank top. I feel like a real turd saying that, because on the other hand this has been such an incredible experience and I am so appreciative of our life and the positive changes it’s brought us.
Apparently, there is just really something about the California summer that has it’s hooks in me…it just seems like there are fewer responsibilities, everyone is warm and relaxed, and where in a few months there will be pressure to see everyone and find the money for flights and gifts, there are only casual get togethers where the whole point is simply enjoying each other’s company. I genuinely believe that physical proximity isn’t a requirement to love people and have close relationships, but there is something about this season especially when I feel the physical distance pressing on me. It doesn’t stem from a fear of missing out, but more of wanting the familiar summertime routine and to share it with people who are important to me.
When we first found out that we’d be moving to Colombia I was surprised that it bothered my mom, because we’d lived in different states since I left for the Navy at 19. She said there was something about not being able to get in a car and drive to see me at the drop of a hat or in whatever moment I needed her that made these extra miles feel like a whole other world.
After these past couple of weeks, I have a new understanding of what she was saying as we were faced with the first poignant downside to living abroad. Cody’s dad was in the hospital for almost two weeks with a serious illness and even while we were hearing family say there was nothing we could do, no words could alleviate the feeling of impotence as we sat 3,000 miles away, just waiting for another update.
Cody was able to be with his family for a few days, but we still found ourselves blanching at a difficult new truth. It was possible to get away this time, but what if a similar situation happens again or something worse or a longer trial? Some events—like babies and weddings—give you enough notice to plan things out. But sickness and emergencies just come out of nowhere. I feel fortunate that for now we have the financial resources to be with people we love at a moment’s notice, but there may come a day when that isn’t the case and we’ll have to do some serious thinking about our life choices.
I feel like we’ve struggled a lot to make sure that family and friends understand how much we love them even though there are more miles between us. And of course, living like this would be impossible without such a supportive group who have reciprocated the effort to keep in touch and who either come to visit us or drop everything when we’re in town. But still, every time I start feeling steady and thinking that I’ve got it all figured out, another wave sweeps my feet out from under me. When we left the U.S. it was easy to brush off hypothetical situations, but this past reality was harder to face.
From the outside I always saw expat life as so glamorous, but I’m quickly realizing that no way of life is perfect—you will always be handing one thing off for another. Even if I love this and want it, it doesn’t mean that it’s always easy. Today it’s a bummer to realize that no matter where I spend my summer, there will always be something I’m missing out on.