As expats, do we build or do we skim?
I’ll be visiting the US this week, always an occasion for reflection on the road not taken (Frost). Friends have homes and families, wrestle with empty nests, careers, retirement plans: the lives of friends and colleagues following the leftward branch. I have pictures and experiences, wrestling language training, business creation, and residency permits along the rightward path.
And we’ll all laugh and lift a glass to the contrasts.
I’ve been through a succession of locations, experiences, leases, and friends: a wonderful voyage, but what lasting qualities am I building? Is life becoming simpler for having a bicycle, or degenerating for no longer having a car? Are my relationships richer for their greater diversity and for having wider scope of discoveries to share, or fatally weakened by distance? And where does the journey finally end: there are no old expats.
I love what I’ve been doing, and can’t imagine trading away the opportunities around me. But sometimes, and especially when I visit life-as-it-was, it can feel out-of-step, insubstantial. I start reflecting on it during the plane rides, doubting over morning coffee. It’s probably a useful check on impulse, but the question still nags: am I building, or just skimming?
Paper cutting by Peter Callesen – Holding onto myself (2006)