The Expat Crisis

There are typical crises that happen in every person’s life: the identity crisis of the teenage years, the mid-20’s crisis, and the famous midlife crisis. Of course there are also the financial crises. Sadly, it’s common to have more than one of these, but they are good perspective on how all the other crises are sometimes nothing more than blown-out-of-proportion tantrums. But there is a special kind of crisis that does not happen to everyone. It is reserved for those who have chosen to leave their birthplace and while doing so, have put many kilometers between them and their homeland.

I do not believe anybody ends up far away from “home” by accident. Sure, the reasons and motivations for it are as varied as life stories can be, but at the core, there’s always a logical and sensible explanation as to how and why a person ended up quite far away from where they happened to be born and raised. Maybe it all started when they took a vacation, maybe with an ambition, maybe even due to a crisis. Whatever the reason, it happened. You are out of there, far away and you have to get your life rolling at whatever the cost because this was your decision and you will be sticking to it.

There will be surprises along the way, ups and downs, so many new things to absorb, learn and understand that you will barely have time to sit down, let alone to get bored. However, pauses will come at some point and that’s when you may allow yourself to look beyond the beyond the blurry spiral that normally has you working at full speed and giving all you have in an attempt to satisfy your own expectation. The crisis will hit. It does not matter how strong, independent and tough you think you are, you will have at least one crisis of this kind.

The expat crisis is quite peculiar, and an excellent moment to prove to yourself how much of a determined person you are. PHOTO: LauraV.

That first time you miss your brother’s birthday will have you reflecting. You will suddenly realize how much it actually matters to you, and how you would have really wanted to have been there, but it was simply not possible, and it’s your fault, thanks to the decisions you made. Maybe you will even get a panic attack the moment you realize that while you so off-handedly make a point of how you find yourself perfectly fine where you are and congratulate yourself every time you feel you got a step closer to your goals without needing anybody from what should be your most intimate circle, they can get on just as fine without you.

If a birthday affected you, wait until the holidays come and you find yourself missing the familiar rituals that you and your relatives repeated year after year, and you somehow convinced yourself you had grown bored of. Face it, more than once you daydreamed about being somewhere else while in the middle of said celebrations, as far as you were concerned, any other place would do, somewhere fun, somewhere far, somewhere exciting! But truth is, the first time it happens it’s really confusing. Suddenly your daydream came true and you are on the loose in a faraway place with all possibilities at your disposal. You could do anything you want, go anywhere you want. Sooner or later you will find that what you want is to know how everyone “back home” is doing. What are they having for dinner, if the food is good or not and what funny things are happening. You will attempt to vicariously join their celebration. This is the moment when you must accept you actually have feelings after all.

Emergencies will also make you question and scold yourself for being so reckless and selfish as to put yourself so far away from where you could be of any help for the people that matters to you. It will be even worse when you don’t even get informed about these things in real time, when you find out everything  is already solved and you are rendered useless. Brace yourself for good news reaching you late as well.

And so they come and go, the key moments in your expat life and its crises, but you must not worry because it means, even if you were sure of the opposite, that you do have things to lose in this world, there are things that matter to you more than others and you will be subject and object of the revelation that you are incredibly lucky because, in fact, you have one or two places where you can run to, no explanation needed, if things go horribly wrong and you need help. And there are one or two numbers you can always dial, day or night, and someone will pick up for the sole reason it’s you on the other side of the line.