I. Do. Not. Want. To. Be. A. Veteran. Expat.
Zoom in on me kicking and screaming as I’m metaphorically pulled to the one year mark. “Noooooooo, we just got here! Am I really saying good-bye to my first batch of friends and sponsoring my first incoming Embassy employee?? How is this possible?!”
I suppose you want to know WHY I am adamantly refusing to cross the one year mark? It’s quite simple actually, because once we cross the one year mark, it’s all over with. I’ll have to acknowledge that 1/20th of our Foreign Service experience has already passed even though I feel like we just arrived yesterday. And the next thing you know I’ll blink and the other 19 years will be behind me too!
Never mind the fact that once we hit one year we have to start bidding on our next post (Note: We bid in September). And with that comes the start the Expat good-bye dance of “Must get one last visit in to X” and “Must find time to get the perfect pearls” and “Must see J & N before they leave for Timbuktu.” And what will surely get lost in all that is the quality of the experience, the “Must Enjoy Every Minute of Our Last Year In Manila”.
They say that once you know where you’re going next, it’s just a matter of ticking off the days at your current post. I hope and pray that I’ll be different from other expats and will be able to stay present in my remaining moments, but I fear that the excitement of the new place that lies ahead of us will sweep me up in its siren song.
And that’s why I’m rebelling right now, before I cross the line of no return. Because I have unequivocally fallen in love with Manila and IT’S JUST TOO SOON TO BE LEAVING!!
And don’t give me your platitudes for why it will all be okay. I know them all:
- There’s still a whole year left!
- But you’ve done so much already!
- You can always come back!
- There will be other great places!
Because in my heart I know everything’s about to change. You see, Manila “birthed” me in a sense.
I came here wide-eyed and curious, newly married and unsure of how I would fare in my new global playground. And in the last 12 months I’ve blossomed. I became intertwined with my partner in a way I never thought possible. I cursed my business and the initial frustration it caused me, finally surrendering to what I knew was my greater calling. I marveled as my needs and desires changed as a result of experiencing poverty first-hand. I discovered my own unique brand of spirituality. And I came to peace with the fact that my life was never going to look like anyone else’s and that different was, in fact, good.
You see, I will never again be the same girl that came to Manila. I now play on a bigger stage and I know I’m being called to do grander, more magnificent things. But it’s scary to step onto that stage and stand in the light. I already miss the comfort and safety of the world I used to know, where everything was familiar and largely risk-free. Yet I also know that I’m finally ready, that this one year mark (which coincides closely with my 30th birthday), is the beginning of another chapter for me. It just happens to be one of those “Choose Your Own Adventure” type novels and I’ve yet to select my ending.
So stay tuned. If there’s one pattern I’ve seen in my life, it’s that I always have a major breakthrough after periods of intense resistance! And I do not plan to give up this fight easily…