In the four years since I arrived in Johannesburg, I have exuberantly explored South Africa taking every opportunity to discover new places and jet off to far-flung locales. I think for expats who know that our time in a place is limited, we feel the need to cram in as much as possible before it all ends, but end it does. It has been four years, four incredible years. I found myself. I found my love. And, I found an unexpected, deep connection to a country that I had only set foot in for one night prior to moving here. After four blissful years, it is time to go back to the US. Simply writing the sentence,”it is time to go back to the US,” I forget to breathe for a moment and my heart torques inside my chest.
It took me a while to come to terms with leaving South Africa. Sometimes when driving home, standing in line at the grocery store, or when the light pores into my perfect little house I am overcome with a sadness. This is my home, but the signs that it was time to go were all there. The owners are selling the house I live in and my Mom had a massive stroke. Universe, I get it. Also, universe please don’t send anymore signs.
I don’t want to leave and yet, it’s time to leave. It is the end of being an expat and the beginning of something new.
Callum and I refer to the next phase as an adventure. Some of my greatest life moments occurred when I felt like I was jumping off into unknown, times when I felt like I was the creator instead of the product of the next step. The first time I felt this sense of freedom was when I was offered the job promotion I had been gunning for and instead of accepting it, I decided that I was going to move to Santiago, Chile. I decided in that very moment. I feel the same sense of optimism as Callum and I figure out this next phase of life. Often we get trapped into pursuing the next step on the career ladder without evaluating if it is what we want. We make the logical, safe move and we forget to consider to opportunities if we take a major risk and change professions or land in a new city where we have never been and know no one. This could lead to failure, but it could also lead to something remarkable. I am looking forward to choosing my own adventure and exploring infinite possibilities.
Maybe I will write a novel. Maybe I will start a business. Maybe I will become a certified Pilates instructor. In all likelihood, I will find a job where I can make a meaningful contribution to a new organization. There is nothing that challenges and excites me more professionally than tackling something new whether it is a new industry or a new role. It is also when I do my best work. I don’t know what the future holds. All that I do know is that the next phase will occur in the US and that this is the end of being an expat in South Africa.
Moving to the US is not for forever. It is for now. I have no doubt that Callum and I will come back to South Africa one day. We love South Africa. This is a country where the taxis drive straight into oncoming traffic and in the truly South African fashion, you make a plan. This is a country where the water may be out for days at a time, but you become a master at using mere litres of water to live, cook, and bath. This is a country where so many things are maddening, but the people are warm and have always welcomed me with open arms. A part of my heart belongs to South Africa, a complex and beautiful country that after four years, I love deeply, but I do not fully understand. I am grateful to the people and the organization that afforded me the opportunity to work and live here for four years.
While I am leaving for now, Callum and I will return. It is an end and the beginning.