So it has been a whole year since I packed up my stuff in Tokyo and moved back to Canada. It’s been quite the year. I was having drinks with a friend, who is still living the overseas dream and quite seriously entertaining the idea of moving back to Canada, and she was asking me all about the transition back home. So in lieu of that conversation, I figured that perhaps I would jot down the highlights and lowlights here.
First of all, I think that because I really wanted to be back home and had grown tired of the overseas thing, my transition has been more positive than the ones of those who came back reluctantly. I was actually relieved when August rolled around and I didn’t have to go spend $300 at Wal-Mart stockpiling tampons and deodorant and then summon up the emotional energy to do proper airport goodbyes. It was nice to just glance at Facebook and see that my friends were checking in at the airports and heading back to their second homes and realizing that, nope, no August jet lag for me!
And that’s when the fun began. I got to experience Canada and family life for the first time in a decade. I was able to see Canadian September and be around for all of the birthday celebrations, instead of just reading about it or enjoying photos of them from afar. Thanksgiving, Easter, Long Weekends…It was fun to be able to jet home for any random weekend and join in on basic family life stuff. Also, being in the same timezone as my family and friends still excites me! I don’t need to do clock math in my head to figure out when is a good time to text or call.
It was fun noticing seasons and actually being able to order Pumpkin Spice Lattes in the fall and drink them while wearing boots and sweaters. (I’m actually totally over that beverage… way overrated) But it was awesome experiencing these things.
I also still get a total kick out of being able to understand the world around me and if I don’t understand something, I can call someone and they can explain it to me. I can make my own reservations and appointments and ask for something to be added or taken way from my meal at a restaurant (although I try not to do that because frankly, that’s annoying!) I’m not limited by limited language and that feeling of independence and belonging is still quite thrilling. (Also, I can totally eavesdrop on people’s conversations and actually know what they are talking about and that’s pretty fun for a Nosey Nelly like me!)
I had a one year teaching contract at a private school in Toronto and that was a positive experience too. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to connect with Canadian kids as I’ve only taught International ones but once again, the lesson I continue to learn, all over the world, is that a teenager is a teenager, and while location may cause a few little changes, they are all pretty much the same. So that was a relief! And it was good to get some Canadian teaching experience.
In terms of the not-so-good parts. There are only a couple. I was a bit surprised how much harder and how much longer it took to find a community in Toronto. I am so used to international communities, that for better or worse, adopt you into them the moment your feet hit the foreign soil. It was strange to show up at work and no one cared where I was living or if I knew where to buy decent spinach. Most people had a real work/life separation going on and so there wasn’t that natural social group waiting for me. It was a bit refreshing at the same time as I didn’t NEED to be friends with that strange rude girl or really weird guy, I only had to be polite at work. But I noticed that people don’t seem very aware of what it means to be embracing of new people or how to be inclusive. So yeah, that aspect was a bit harder but the closer I looked, I realized that there are a lot of lonely people in this city and so, slowly but surely, I’ve been making friends and getting some good people in my life.
I also miss the rather reckless way of spending money and taking extravagant holidays. That doesn’t happen anymore. Gone are the expat days of spending money because we could and going to fancy places because that’s what everyone else was doing. Introducing this strange thing called A Budget.
The travel itineraries of my colleagues and new friends are a little more mellow compared to my colleagues of the past 10 years. But there is something to be said for being able to just pop home for the Long Weekend, a small thing that still makes me very happy.
I think that while there are some adjustments and moving back really has been like starting over, I have not regretted for one moment my decision to move back here. (Well, maybe that one time when my bank balance kinda bothered me) I am absolutely loving living in Canada and among “my people” and being around for important occasions. I love that my whole life is in one place and I’m no longer feeling like part of me is here and part of me is across the ocean. I do not regret my decade abroad for one second, nor do I regret my decision to move back.
So there you have it… a year home and still very happy about it!