Ahh, 19 days in the States. It all seemed so surreal, touching down at JFK, boarding the bus to Immigration, crossing through the tiny lines for the Diplomats, being welcomed “home” by the friendly INS/CBP/ICE/whatever they are these days agent. Was I “home?” I guess I was, w/r/t being back in the motherland and all, but I really wasn’t. It was nice to speak my native tongue for 19 days, not having to search for words to describe simple concepts, not having to constantly look over my shoulder all the time, not having to fight through the incessant traffic jams, etc. But I wasn’t home. So much had changed since I was last there. Not so much that the physical had changed (with the exception of people being a little older and some new additions to the circle in the form of kids), but my perceptions had changed of the world around me. I was grateful for things that just 365 short days ago I had taken for granted.
Living abroad is a lot more difficult than I had imagined. You miss so much. Facebook and the blogs can only substitute so much for actual experience and interaction. But at the same time, it was as if I had never left in many regards with my friends and immediate family. I did not get a chance to see my extended family, which sucked, but if they can’t make time to see me in the 19 days we had there with 3 months’ advance notice of my arrival, I’m not going to lose sleep over it. Instead, I’ll probably just cross them off the list of priorities for next time.
I ate a lot. I shopped a lot. I relished in the fact that I had almost nothing to do for 3 weeks. I took my time enjoying the things that I had deemed important. It all came to an end too soon, and before I realized that I was back into my comfort zone, I was forcibly removed from it by a JetBlue flight back to reality. A reality we have created for ourselves.
Do I miss the States? Sure. Do I miss my friends and family? Absolutely. Would I trade my life now for the ability to return to normalcy in the States? Not a chance. I will miss many milestones living abroad, and I will be saddened by the fact that I am missing them. I will not, however, feel bad about it. My wife is presented with the opportunity to do what she has dreamed about since she was a child, and I am happy to follow where she leads me. I am happy to make a life (and a good one at that) out of what is presented to us. I am happy to forever be labeled a “trailing spouse” and be secondary to her in all things, since behind every good FSO is a good trailing spouse.
The one prevailing lesson taken away from my time on R&R is that R&R is really expensive. To those of you noobs out there not realizing this I say simply, “start saving now.”