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Assimilation

Well I am back in Ontario and excited to be here. Hard to explain the feeling of coming home. There is so much comfort in being surrounded by the familiar and settling into old habits and routines.

That said I still find myself at loose ends. I always need about a week to decompress from the end of the year but this feels different. For one my stress level at the end of this school year is a 4 out of 10 as opposed to a 15 out of 10. I feel energized and excited for summer not drained and exhausted. This is a nice refreshing change. However all of my colleagues and friends here are not in the same space as me. They need down time and an opportunity to fall into their new routines of summer.

Trying to re-establish relationships after a year away is challenging. I know that I am a different person. Often times when you experience something new or go on an adventure you do it with someone else. You create and have memories and experiences together. For me I went to China on my own, stepped out of my comfort zone and took some big risks. This changed me but no one else I know was there for my transformation. That is the weird part……I know that I am different because of the experience.

I now have to return to my role as mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt and friend. When you live abroad you find that you compartmentalize things. You have to or you will worry, be upset or definitely get homesick. You cannot do anything to change or fix the circumstances at home so you box it up and put it on the shelf. The problem is that box is still there when you get home. Sometimes you open it and it is filled with joy, surprise, celebration and other times it holds sadness,loneliness, loss and fear. No matter what the box contains once it is opened you need to deal with the contents. This can be overwhelming and emotional at times.

Although I spent time with friends and colleagues every day I also had a LOT of alone time. I had my own space that I did not have to share with anyone. I could do, eat, and watch what I wanted when I wanted. There was no negotiation or compromise. Part of being back with my family is navigating my wants and needs with all of theirs. I do not want to be selfish but also find that I need some quite time of my own to recharge my batteries. It will be interesting to navigate so that everyone gets what they need and want.

There is joy in the familiar. Mint chocolate chip ice cream, BBQs, pilates, the farmer’s market, cooking, driving, shopping in my favourite stores, coffee with a friend, walking in the park, my bed and my home. I realize just how much I miss and appreciate these things. The simple things matter. They are often what give you comfort when it seems unfamiliar and strange.

I have planned a low key summer on purpose. There is a China reunion planned in PEI but I will be bringing along my husband and some dear friends to meet my new CISB family. Other than that I am embracing the opportunity to be spontaneous and take time for friends and family. There is a lot to pack into 6 weeks before returning to China for year 2 and I intend to do as much as possible before my return.

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