Sunday, February 16, 2014

Wee ones we're missing

One of the hard things about being an expat -- or, at least, a new expat -- is missing stuff at home. We miss people, we miss old jobs, we miss certain foods, we miss some traditions and holidays and many other things.

The feeling isn't constant. If it were, we'd probably just pack up and go back to the States. Most days I don't miss anything, or at least not a whole lot. But when you do feel like you're missing out, the feeling can be powerful.

Missing out isn't the same thing as being homesick, though they can go hand in hand. I don't feel homesick, like my home is in the U.S. and I'm too out of place in Scotland. Rather, missing out is being unable to participate, or help, or be present for moments that are ephemeral.

Our friends Trish with William on left, Jamie with Molly on right. (Not pictured: me and Kate and Jackson.)
Some of the toughest things to miss are big life events for family and friends. When you move overseas, you know you're not going to spend most holidays with your family. You're going to miss birthdays. You may not be able to attend events like reunions or weddings. Unless you're quite well off and have a lot of vacation time, you just don't have the money and/or the freedom for frequent intercontinental travel.

Phone calls, Facebook, emails, texts, Skype and Facetime can all help bridge the international gap. Often, it helps quite a bit. Even a quick note or text can boost your entire day, or maybe a whole week. It might even be a gift that keeps on giving.

As an expat, missing out is a regular fact of life. It comes with the territory. Before you move, you're intellectually prepared for it.

You can't, however, prepare for precisely how or when it's going to hit you.

Two of our sets of really good friends -- Trish and Sam, and Jamie and Aaron -- each recently had a baby. All four were around when our son, Jackson, was born a couple of years ago (in a harrowing manner, but that's a story for another day). They endured watched us as we shifted life from childless to parents . . . and they stayed our friends. As great friends do, they let us bring our baby along to parties and weddings and pub trivia nights, with nary a complaint. Heck, they even invited the lil' guy.

But we couldn't be there for when Trish had baby William, and Jamie had baby Molly. Missed the growing baby bumps, missed the baby showers, missed the births, missed the first months (and counting) of William's and Molly's lives.

Around the same time we moved from North Carolina to Scotland, they moved from North Carolina to New York and Massachusetts. So even if we had remained in North Carolina, it's not as though we would've been able to see them frequently. As expats, however, we've missed everything.

This weekend Trish and Sam got to go visit Jamie and Aaron. Baby boy got to meet baby girl.

"Hey, girl! How you doin'?" (Alternate caption: "Hey, girl! Pull my finger.")
We're delighted for them. It's awesome they got to see each other.

We miss them, though.

Not jealous. Well, not jealous in a bad way.

Instead, it's the knowledge that we're missing moments like these. Our own moments with them. Our own visits. Our own shared experiences.

Is it impossible for us to fly back to the States to see them? No. As expats, however, returning to the States for a visit is challenging, and costly, and time-consuming. We need to pick and choose our trips carefully, but when we do so we wonder if we're choosing the wrong timing, picking the wrong events. If we pick this, then we miss that. And how do you take a trip to see scattered friends in various states, and also spend time with family far-flung across the continent? We know we can't do it all, see everyone.

This isn't a dilemma unique to being an expat, obviously. As you read this, no matter where you live, you likely have friends and family who live far away. You can't see them all the time. You miss them.

But I think being new expats heightens our feeling of missing out on certain things. It's not just about physical distance. It's that we live in a different country with a different culture, which comes with at least a sprinkle of emotional dislocation. Then on top of the dislocation come the reminders, sometimes the jolts, that we're also going to miss events at home. Important events. And the littler events, the conversations, the shared meals, the communal sports viewing, which often loom larger in your memory.

We missed our friends this weekend. Powerfully.


  1. If it makes you feel any better, I was sad and missed them, too (though admittedly from a closer distance). And I can't drive by a chipotle without smiling and thinking of you guys. I think what makes me miss y'all so much more than other friends who have moved away over the years (aside from your implicit awesomeness) is that I know I can't really see you on a whim. Even though I don't see a lot of other friends who have moved away very often, I like knowing I could fairly easily. I think it's awesome that you're in Scotland...I just wish it wasn't 12 travel hours and several time zones away. :)

    1. Awww. You know we miss you so much, too! It's a pain that if we want to see someone, or they want to see us, then it's gonna cost a lot of money and take a lot of planning. I don't have a solution. Unless someone wanted to make a similar move overseas . . .

      And I do prefer being implicitly awesome rather than explicitly awesome. ;)