Endings: The Farewell Season

It’s time to say goodbye.

Another school year has come to an end.  Today Jackie graduated from 8th Grade at the American School in London.  Middle School is officially behind us, and now both of my daughters are in High School.


When Katie and Jackie were much younger and attached to me like velcro, I often longed for the days when they would grow up and become more independent companions.  That day is here, and now I find myself in a wistful state of nostalgia for the innocent, needy days of their early childhood.  I’d like to get a jam-smeared hug and feel those pudgy little fingers fold into mine as we hold hands.  No more.

In London, it is the Farewell Season once again.  With the end of another school year comes the end of many of my friends’ expat experience.  Suddenly, I am going to goodbye parties every night, sharing that one last glass of wine with all the great people I have come to know and love in such a short time.

I was talking a friend at one such event, and she remarked that the friendships you make living abroad as an expat are very “authentic”.  They are completely untainted by the normal rat race of life in your hometown.  There is no “keeping us with the Joneses” because it is such a hodge-podge population.  There is no “house envy” because everyone rents, and most people have a random assortment of furnishings.  There is no “child achievement obsession” because most people do not necessarily know each others’ children, staying blissfully unaware of their varied accomplishments.

Transitory by definition, the expat experience is also incredibly unsettling. Those who leave face the uncertainty of how it will feel to re-enter their previous life and slide back into old routines that feel foreign now.  Those who stay must accept living away from “home” for another year, maintaining that delicate balance between one life and the other.  Either way, an underlying level of uncertainty permeates and sometimes makes you feel adrift.

For most expats, life is lived one year at a time.  This is a strange phenomenon after experiencing such permanence at home where the years flow consecutively and then merge over time into one amorphous blob.   A familiar expat refrain is: “We’ll be here another year, after that, who knows?”  This forces people to live life in the moment.  This is perhaps the best part of the expat experience.  Carpe Diem is the mission statement that everyone embraces.

So I, too, will seize the day and try to live in this moment.  I will let my little girls go, and embrace my young ladies who are on the brink of adulthood.  Likewise, I will let my good friends go and attempt to fill their void next year.  Finally, I will let myself go and relinquish control over my unforeseeable future.

Where will I be a year from now?

Only time will tell.



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