Let me give you a crash course in what talking to me may be like back in Australia.
I suspect I’m going to need some time to readjust to the different problems, focuses, and concerns of a first world country. Please don’t get mad at me when I can’t empathise with you when you complain about the state of Australian roads. I have lived an incredibly different lifestyle with very different problems for the last 3.5 years, and it’s not something easily gotten over. I will get overwhelmed by the beautiful produce in supermarkets, and I won’t care that the butter has a dent in it (I’ll only love that it isn’t mouldy). I’ll be thrilled that people almost always stick to their own lanes and won’t care about the person who just cut you off, whom you think is an utter maniac.
I’ll try not to judge you for the things you see as issues, and in turn I ask that you be patient with me when you can’t understand my perspectives on things.
Please don’t dismiss the way I’m feeling; my reactions will often be raw, and at times difficult to handle, because no one else will be responding to daily life the way I am (last time I cried in a supermarket because I saw zucchinis & mushrooms).
No one else has had my experiences; they are mine alone. Even if you’ve been overseas, please do not presume to understand. My experiences are different to yours, and whilst you might have more insight than the average person, you still aren’t me.
Please don’t talk to me about my time in Indonesia as if it were a fun interlude. I am not resuming my ‘normal’ life after a hiatus overseas.
I have lived here, really lived here. I am no tourist. This is my home; I have friends, a job, a house, places of recreation, routines, significant experiences, deep relationships and so much more. This is my life, this is not a fun holiday.
I have lived in poverty
I have lived with plenty
I have had delightful times
I have struggled through intense difficulty
I have been ecstatically happy
I have been incredibly miserable
I have lived without consistent access to electricity, gas and water
I have driven on things you would be generous to call ‘roads’
I have not always been safe
I have been extremely stressed
I have been extremely relaxed
I have lived amongst utterly stunning natural surroundings
I have built friendships that will last a lifetime
I will be losing precious relationships
I have worked hard in a job I adore
I have worked at learning a new language
I have engaged with a new culture
I have suffered cultural disconnects (both within the Indonesian culture and the expat culture)
I am thrilled to be moving back to Australia
I am devastated to be leaving my life here
I will be losing my home
I will be gaining back my home
It’s all kind of confusing
If you want to hear about my life and time here, it is not a quick 5 minute rant. I am more than happy to catch up with you for a coffee or a meal to chat about my experiences, but please don’t expect me to be able to package up my life in a 5 minutes chat, then get back to life as usual.
Please also don’t expect me to be back to who I was in 6 months.
I don’t want to be the same person as when I left. I have a broader perspective on the world, as well as on my own life. I want to reengage with Australian life, but I don’t want to lose this experience and the impact it has had on me.
I hope you can keep this stuff in mind when we meet again. I want to reengage with my relationships, but I also want you to be aware that I’m going to struggle if you don’t see this part of my life as an integral part of who I am, instead of as a passing trip. This has not been a fun holiday; this has been a challenging, rewarding, all-consuming, life-altering era in my life, and I am grateful for it.
Be gracious with me and I’ll be gracious with you.
Let grace abound.
EDIT: Please let me clarify for those who have expressed concern over this post. I absolutely do not mean that people’s problems back at home aren’t as important as mine, or aren’t as valid. They’re different. That’s all I meant. I just want to prepare people for the fact that I have had very different focuses and experiences and that I can’t easily slip back into first world life without some adjustment time. I understand that everyone has moved on without me, and that’s a little intimidating. It’s a bit scary to think that my friendships don’t exist the way they used to and I don’t fit into people’s lives anymore. Of course other people’s problems matter. Mine are not more important, they’re just different.