Emotion 1 - Excitement
Finally! You get confirmation that the move back home (that's been a possibly, maybe for the past six months) is definite, it's happening! And although the move is still many months away you feel joy, excitement, elation. 'I'm going home!' you think. Back to good restaurants and shoes that fit me and English speakers and lamb, delicious lamb and my family, my sister and my nephews, and well priced delicious wine and trips to the beach with the dogs and friends, old and new, and clean air and, and, and! You think 'life is going to be easy again!'.
Emotion 2 - Fear
You think 'life is going to be easy again.' You realise that you love living abroad, being a stranger. You love the day to day challenges; the living in blissful ignorance, not speaking English for days on end. You love the apartment you've been living in for 3+ years; it feels like home.
On a trip back to Australia you walk down Pitt Street Mall in Sydney, trying to really imagine living in this city again, and all you can think is that it feels like a small country town. Quiet, isolated, remote. And you are not special there. You think 'is this the end of adventure? Is my life just going to be a comfortable beige blur from now on?'.
And then you think about the move a bit more and you realise that you can't use visa restrictions and language barriers as an excuse any more, people are going to expect you to get out there and do something with your life. Which scares you.
And then there's the uncertainty, the questions. Where can I find 4 dollar soupy noodles in Sydney? (I'm pretty sure the answer is - nowhere). How will we manage 'co-parenting' when everyone's living in the same city, the same country? Will I go to parent-teacher night? How will I get my fix of cheap, cute stationery? How will I cope with shop assistants talking to me, in English? Does the husband really expect me to do the ironing? You fear the big stuff - becoming stagnant; changing roles and relationships - and you fear the little stuff.
Emotion 3 - Regret
You realise the move really is on and time is running out, and a strange thing happens. All those things that were driving you completely crazy about Korea (or insert-your-expat-country-name-here), those things that had you weeping with frustration, they disappear. Suddenly all you notice is how breathtakingly pretty the city looks in Spring, how much you love kim chi, how great the shopping is. You notice how comfortable you feel in your neighbourhood - even though you'll never look like a local, you feel kind of like a local. And even though logically you know all the (very valid) reasons why you made the decision to move back home, emotionally you feel a sort of soft regret.
And you think of all those weekend trips to places that are (relatively) short hops away (Kyoto, Suzhou, to name two) that you never took. The road trips, the city excursions, the hikes. The craft and cooking classes. The blog posts you never wrote...time is running out.
Emotion 4 - Panic
As the move looms closer, you start to panic. Panic at the thought of all that stuff (oh, so much stuff!) that needs to be moved across oceans. Bouts of de-cluttering follow. With a slightly manic glint in your eye, you throw out whole boxes of scrap paper, a stack of DVDs you'll never watch again and a broken faux-Meccano roller coaster. You try to get the step-sons enthused about the process, but instead the youngest one just holds up a single piece of crumpled paper and asks 'soooo...do you think I should keep this?'.
Then you start thinking about the actual move, and panic turns to stress. Yes there's the packing and unpacking, but there's also the disconnecting and connecting (phone, internet, gas, water, DTV...). And what do you do with the goldfish? And the pot plants? Then there's the transporting of dachshunds; the finding of doctors and dentists and waxers. And vets. Oh, and you need to find somewhere to live, for a little while, until you can move in to what will be your Home (yes, with a capital 'H'). And you realise when it comes to quality short term accommodation Sydney is the worst. And pet friendly? No way.
Emotion 5 - Depression
So you realise that for the first few months after the move you're probably going to be living in a soulless apartment that's over your budget. And the dogs, your dogs, will be spending time in quarantine and maybe then living at a boarding kennel. And everything will feel, will be, temporary. Again.
And then something little happens, just an everyday frustration, and it's enough to push you over the edge. And you realise you may have just yelled at some poor customer service person, or maybe you're sitting at your computer with tears in your eyes and your not quite sure why. You realise it's because you don't actually deal very well with uncertainty, and everything, everything is uncertain right now.
Time for a stroll in the sunshine, a good meal, a good book, a glass of wine. Some pom pom making. Time for a deep breath.
Emotion 6 - Acceptance
You remember all that management training about circle of influence / circle of concern. You realise you cannot control everything, and that actually that's part of what you've loved about living overseas. You write a list and start working on what you can, and let go of what you can't. You start cramming in all those city excursions and blog posts. You make plans for next year, for when you are Home; things you want to achieve that could not have been possible whilst you were living abroad. You get excited about the possibilities again. And you realise that no, it's not the end of adventure. That it's the start of something new. And just like the past 6 years it will be both wonderful and mundane.
*Is it just me or is repatriation a really ugly word? It kind of sounds like a medical procedure or some sort of 'enhanced interrogation' technique...