Repatriation: The Bittersweet End to Expat Life

It’s official the repatriation process is well underway and much like the journey of coming to Japan the inevitable it about to happen.  We’re moving back to the U.S. of A.  While as much as I want to put up a fight that our adventure is coming to an end, I am excited about the future.  But like most things involved with this whole process it’s just a band-aid I’m ready to rip off, scream a little, and then move on with my life.

Thankfully, the process to returning to your home country is way less stressful than it is moving to a foreign one.  Everything down to importing our cats back into America.  Luckily, for us there are no restrictions in the state of Michigan and Sarg and General can freely get through customs.  Of course, wouldn’t you know it on the Japan side there are exportation policies, because you know…Japan.  Thankfully, it’s one form and a health check to ensure they are safe to fly.

I’ve been trying my best to soak in every last-minute of my time in Japan, but I’ve recently found myself getting choked up in random places, walking down the street, getting on the subway, or simply using the little Japanese that I’ve learned.  I don’t think I was prepared to feel this way.  It’s hard in the sense that we only have a few short weeks left, however my life here doesn’t feel over yet.  We still have our apartment in tact, we haven’t moved into a hotel yet, and John is still working.  It’s like we really are putting off the inevitable.

I have to be honest and say that I’m dreading the process of repatriating.  Not necessarily the move itself, but the emotional aftermath of figuring out how to live in a country that hasn’t been my home for two years, yet is where I’m supposed to belong.  I think most recovering expats can agree that repatriating might be the hardest part of living abroad.  I have no idea what it will look like, how I’ll feel, or any of the above, but I can certainly say that I’m already starting to feel a sense of loss for Japan.  The funny thing is I never really belonged in Japan, but now that moving back to Michigan, the place that is supposed to feel like home, feels more than ever like I’m a square peg returning to a round hole.    Maybe that sounds dramatic to some, but it’s truly hard to put into words as to what I’m feeling.

The movers are scheduled to come in a few weeks and the life that we built here in Japan will be meticulously packed up and put on an airplane and boat, to be delivered to the life we left behind.  Almost coming full circle with this journey truly has been bittersweet.  But like with any and all things in life, this chapter is over and a new one is about to begin and I plan to do my best to be optimistic about it.

We have a lot to look forward to, moving back to our house- that we never really got the chance to make a home, to our families – who have endured a lot by supporting our move here, to our ever loyal friends, and to our careers.  John has accomplished so much since he’s been in Japan and words will never be able to express how proud I am of him.  I know he’s looking forward to bringing that knowledge back to the states and of course going back to normal working hours.  Then of course there is me, who put my career on hold to support my husbands.  As hard as it was I know that deep down it was the right choice.  Even though I had to make that sacrifice, I’m excited that I’m about to head back to right where I left off, as I’ll be gainfully employed again as of February 12th.

Life never gives you a crystal ball and you never really know if the decisions you make are the right ones.  I knew going into this I had a lot of uncertainties, but I’m so glad we took a chance.  And as the hardest part of this whole journey is about the begin, I’m looking forward and remembering everything that got us here in the first place.

To be continued…




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