Ding. Buzz. Ding. Buzz. Ding.
As a United States citizen, leaving an ex-pat in another country, if you care about your finances at all than you know that you have exactly 34 days during any consecutive 365 day period where you’re allowed to be in the country.
To be safe… 30.
Incase of death… more like 21.
So, you have 21 days to take your one round-the-world vacation to a far off land that just so happens to be home. And while you’re there, you have to somehow successfully feel like you relaxed and you did the “vacation thing” or you’ll go insane. Fucking insane. I’m not kidding. I tried it once, it lasted a mere 48 hours. I couldn’t handle the dings. Ding. Ding. Ding.
I’ve lived “away” from half a dozen places someone else in my life would refer to as home. But, I’ll never get used to the feeling of being pulled in every direction.
When you’re here, people are pissed you didn’t do enough, you didn’t text enough, you didn’t talk enough, you didn’t spend enough time, you were off spending time with someone else and they don’t even know that person!
When you’re home, people are mad.
When you stop off at work, people are mad.
If you don’t stop off at work, work is mad.
I’m used to always being someplace opposite of where a dozen other people think I should be. I’ve learned to deal with that for most of my life; since the first time I moved away at the age of eight.
What I will never get used to is coming home to family, not just friends. And not just family, but work. What I will never get used to is 21 of the longest shorted days of your entire year, devoured by a million fabulous and high-strung moments.
I’m not complaining about the pause-points. The pause-points are the enjoyable points. Actually getting to a movie is great. Sitting down with your nieces and nephews to play a round of Say Anything (homemade Christmas version) is fantastic. Getting waffles with your sister and niece at 10pm is fantastic. Having your sister inlaw make the world’s most creative Christmas gift for you, specific to who you are and when you were born, is phenomenal. Stopping over for lunch with parents is grand. It’s all the in betweens.
It’s knowing before you have a chance to wake that half a dozen people have asked you your plans… again. It’s being in the shower with 15 minutes to spare before your Uber driver will arrive to take you to your first stop of the day, and then trying not to be consciously aware the entire time you’re with one person that in an hour you have to be on your way to some place else. It’s two hour train rides and $120 Uber receipts. It isn’t the money. It’s the concept of “everywhere” all at once and “nowhere” when you need to be somewhere.
The thing is, it doesn’t stop here. It didn’t even originate with coming home. It starts in the three or four weeks before any big vacation, when you’re working 15 hour days and long into the weekends to prepare everything to continue while you’re gone, without anyone ever noticing that you’re afk.
And it’s not like everything calms down once you’re home. When you’re in the States, between every exhaled moment of getting to actually spend time with people (…or sleep), you’re cramming all the things you need to do while you’re here – buy the good underwear, replace your running shoes, replace your every-day t-shirts with new threads. I used to watch my family from Germany stock up every time they came through the States and then take racing day trips to every corner of the state to take it all in at once. Now I get it. I really, really get it. I get it at an entirely different level.
Call the doctor.
Get the pills.
Replace the shoes.
Order from Amazon.
Get another refill of pills.
Stuff your suitcase.
Then, once home, it all starts over again in a backwards, unwinding sort of way. Like a tire swing spun so tight that you’ve risen six feet above the ground in anticipation of the unwind, going home is the feeling of unpredictable pulls in gravity so strong, so random, that you can’t even hold your head up straight as you unwind how uptight a trip like this can make you.
You think about everything you forgot to do, and you think about all the things you didn’t get done on time. You feel guilty about who you couldn’t see or didn’t see enough. You tell yourself you could’ve battled jet lag at least slightly better and perhaps, if you’d dropped $2,000 on a car you could have spent an extra six hours at random in the office when the rest of your life wasn’t booked solid.
But then you have to think about all you have to do now that you’re home.
Put new sheets on the bed.
Freshen the house.
Visit the office.
Catch up on emails.
Make plans with half a dozen people that want to hear all about your trip.
Make plans with a dozen more coworkers and colleagues to go over where everything stands.
Spend long hours into the night and early, early, early hours of jet lag trying to make sense and re-organize everything that happened or didn’t happen while you were gone.
Wish you had a personal assistant.
Promise yourself the diet starts now, get too busy and end up ordering take out for an entire week.
Get your roots redone.
Visit your physical therapist.
Immediately fly to Brisbane to get to your orthodontist knowing your long overdue.
And do it all by the end of the week so no one thinks you’re dragging your feet; so the appearance of having never left at all is still a very real thing, and the world can continue spinning through every aspect of your life relieving the anxiety of everyone around you while drastically increasing yours because at the end of the day there’s nothing like being gone for three weeks, knowing all you had to do to get there and everything you have to do the minute you arrive home, yet being the only one that has any understanding of just how much work that is. That’s the thing about working. People only know how hard you work, if they see just how many things fall apart when you’re gone. But, I can’t let that happen. I won’t let that happen. And no one knows just how much you do, when no matter where you are in the world, the world you’ve created just keeps on spinning.
I suppose that’s how God feels.
People always did say I had a rather big God complex.