It’s been a few months since I found myself switching gears and preparing to settle into life in my home country. After 5 years of barely* interrupted expat life – the entirety of my independent adult existence – it’s been… a trip.
In some ways, I’m surrounded by familiarity. I’m living with my mom, in an apartment stuffed full of childhood artifacts. My two closest friends live well within reach. This is my national, cultural, climatic home. This country is home to the ideals of equality and individual liberty I hold dear.
I feel like I’ve returned to a war zone.
I’m struggling to learn the ropes of “making a living” in this place. Thankfully, I got lucky with a great temp job that could lead to a full-time position. But I feel like a fish out of water, cut off from the contacts I need to leverage my knowledge and experience. I see so many around me struggling to make ends meet or angry at their inability to get ahead.
I’m fighting what already feels like a battle to bring my husband home to live with me, while keeping him safe and fed. He can’t return to Syria, he has no right to work, Nepal will soon kick him out, and very few other countries are willing hosts to broke Syrians. Meanwhile, American politicians try to legislate barriers against his nationality and right-wing vigilantes carry out random acts of intimidation against people like him.
Maybe it’s the precise spot I’m in, or my over-consumption of news and social media. Maybe it’s transitioning away from jobs that provide housing and ready-made peer groups. But I feel more isolated and homeless than I ever did abroad. I feel more directly threatened by social and political developments. I feel less equipped to create a meaningful life here than I did in Africa or the Middle East, and yet a great sense of urgency to do so.
*Minus about nine months.