Tomorrow will be my first day in Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, paid employment in Sydney. There is so much “normal” in that one sentence it’s not even funny.
Don’t pretend you’re not disappointed. I’m trying not to be.
“So when are you going back to South America?”
“What are you doing here? Just here for a break?”
These are things people have actually, literally, said to me. I’ve been home in Canberra for two months, but there is an assumption I won’t stay long in Australia. I don’t know how I got a reputation this formidable.
Sure, I like travelling and I enjoy tourism. But the truth is, I have never been driven by wanderlust. It pains me a little to think that other people might believe I’m just chasing adventure.
After some reflection, I’ve come to the conclusion that what I love is not travelling – it’s being an expat.
Despite the stereotypes and everyone calling me la chinita, I actually love being foreign and, yes, exotic. I embrace being different. I get a kick out of being apparently Asian, raised Australian and finding myself on the other side of the world speaking Spanish fluently. You can’t put that in a box.
Being an expat has also given me a lot of perspective, a greater appreciation of what it means to have heavenly citizenship. It has freed me of dependence on social and material structures and safety nets I enjoyed (or suffered from) at home. It has taught me how to be wrong.
Living abroad has had a profound impact on my life and faith, but I don’t want to be defined by the travelling that I’ve done. It’s tempting to wear that label – after all, it’s a pretty cool sticker as far as branding goes. But it’s also a label that falls short of the fullness and complexity of who I am even now, let alone who God is making me to be.
So maybe it’s time to come home and be at home. Maybe it’s time to learn to be in “my” country again. To live in a world that speaks my first language. To not be foreign or exotic. To reconfigure my structures and safety nets. To learn all over again how to be wrong in my own community.
I’m going to miss being an expat and there is no guarantee I won’t head abroad again in the future. But this chapter of my life will be set in Sydney, Australia, and I’m determined it won’t just be filler for other more exciting parts of my story. No – let’s make this count.