Australian Expatriate Returns To Brisbane After 12 Years
By Heidi Willis
After living in the UK for nearly 12 years, Heidi felt burnt out and homesick for her friends and family in Australia. This is her story of returning home to Brisbane…
I am returning to Australia in two months after a total of nearly 12 years overseas. More than a third of my life. The trepidation is immense – after all this time in the United Kingdom (UK) I have stopped being a devil may care Aussie and have become rather pedantic and set in my ways!
Returning Home to Australia
Why am I coming home? Well, everyone else is at the moment too – even people who have been here for 15 or 17 years seem to be making moves back home – I put this down to globalisation and the fact that Australia is no longer seen as the end of the world and as a global contender – albeit in a smaller way than the UK.
The jobs don’t look bad and the weather certainly is better too. I am also very burned out from living in London all this time, I wish I could have a lifestyle that included leisure and enjoyment. It seems a mad dream. When I see my Australian friends in Australia they have great houses, nice, comfortable lifestyles – not like my own scrimping and saving to afford a reasonable standard of living in London and battling through the winter which seems to get worse for me every year.
The big reason though is that my heart isn’t in this London life anymore and I can’t seem to feel excited anymore about the theatre or the European travel. I just feel tired these days. My thoughts have turned increasingly to Australia, a place I still call home.
If I call it home then why am I so nervous about returning? How many long term expats do I know who have this experience? Everyone. We call a place “home” that we don’t actually know that well anymore. It’s home of ten years ago, childhood – it’s not home of our current selves.
So many of my friends are tired out of their exciting overseas lives, they are missing their families and as they get older they long for the comfort and security of what they once knew so well. So many long term expats I know do nothing but talk about Australia!
It’s Australia this, Australia that – on and on and yet they don’t live there and I wonder if their constant Southern Hemisphere talk is borne of an idealised version of the “other” where things could go back to normal and we picture this fun filled life of enjoying Australia and old friends and great lifestyles, replete in the knowledge that we went out there and “did it” and now we are happy to come home and enjoy our own countries again.
I’ve dreamed of Australia now for four years, longed for sunshine, home, my mother and my family and the relaxed way of life.
Wanted to spend endless hours chatting, going to the beach and knowing that it wasn’t going to end in two weeks when the holiday ended. However, I suspect that it is a little more complicated than that.
Insecurities About Coming Home
I know I’ll initially feel very out of place, I’ll miss London, I’ll miss my friends here and I’ll even miss the horrid Tube system that drives me crazy! I know that going home feels (in a small and treacherous part of me) a failure, an admission of defeat. I know that is not real but that’s how I feel and many feel.
I think these feelings are erroneous and we can work them out. I’m also single. I recall in Oz pretty much everyone tying the knot at 25, I don’t mind being single myself but I worry that I’ll be ostracised from all the happy couples.
So I face these worries and thoughts and still I want to come home – this is a something that won’t be silenced. The questions I ask myself are endless. Will I get a good job after all this time away? My current job is about to get bigger – will I regret leaving at this time? Will I still have enough in common to re-connect?
Planning Where to Resettle
I’m planning to live in Brisbane – will that be a good place? Will I expire in the heat? I’ve never lived there and over the years my family has moved there so in a funny way it will be a new home but with the family – seems perfect – as I’m not going back to my hometown but equally choosing a positive new, sunny lifestyle. Hoorah! That sounds good.
Sometimes I wonder if all this angst is worth it and would I be better accepting I’ve been gone too long. My heart breaks at having to accept that – what a harsh thought that feels – no country.
So instead of the dreaming of Australia and being homesick and labouring under a sense of self-imposed exile, I decided to do something about it. The doing is harder than I thought and I am determined that if this is the decision I’ve come to and I’ve essentially packed up my life then I must embrace the change.
Going home … I expect it to be challenging, in fact I’ve readied myself for the worst and at least that way I think it can only be better? Then I wonder if it is all so hard why am I doing it in the first place? No reason except a tiny part of me that won’t be happy until I do. I wait to see.
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