Repatriating: Day One

A brief note – I haven’t written since March, and I am sorry. I’m getting back into the groove now though. I will ask that if you read a post of mine that touches you or that you think might resonate with one of your friends, that you please consider sharing it and consider liking my author Facebook page. There are sharing buttons for many social media platforms at the end of each post. I am working towards publishing my first book, and the more readers I can show that I have, the better my chances are of being published. I will share more about the book later. Stay tuned! Thanks! -Brittany

Updated on 5/20/2017 for grammar, punctuation, and mechanics.

I was sitting in the passenger’s seat of my sister’s SUV, staring out the window at the fields of grass as we passed them by. Cows. Stacks of hay. The occasional barn. And the tears began to flow.

She had just picked me up from the airport. My last flight from China, my home for the past five years.

My nephews were in the back seat — my suitcases were stacked in the hatchback trunk with my cat’s crate tucked snugly between them. The occasional meow could be heard through all the cargo, as the boys craned their necks up and back as far as they could to look at the newest member of the family, my adopted Chinese cat-son. My most expensive souvenir.

Me Sissy Ash

Just after I was picked up from the airport

I’d been waiting for this moment since the previous summer when my sister and her family moved to this small town in the country. I had just returned from another summer of whirlwind world traveling and was able to visit her in her new town for two days before it was time to catch my flight back to my other world — China.

I knew when I had gotten on the airplane that summer to head back to China that it would be my last year. I sensed it in my spirit — and after a long hard and amazing school year, it was finally over.

I couldn’t even count the number of nights that last year in China that I sobbed myself to sleep because I wanted nothing else but to snap my fingers, be done with China, and back home in Virginia. And yet, there I was: landed, through customs, in the car, with my cat, and on my way “home” when the tears began to seep through my tired, burning eyes.

A few minutes before the tears began, I had warned my sister:


“Just so you know, repatriating is rumored to be one of the most difficult and stressful challenges people face in life. They say it is really hard and there is nothing that the surrounding family can do to help. So be warned. I’m beyond happy to be home, but I’m beyond grieved to be leaving China. I had a whole life there and a whole community and family that I may never see again. And I’m so excited to finally be home. And I feel everything. Joy. Sadness. Excitement. Grief. Anticipation. Loss. All at the same time. I’m going to be emotional, and I don’t know when or how, but you won’t understand. You can’t. And it’s not your fault. It just is.”

“Okay,” she replied.

“Okay.” I nodded and peered out the window. And just as quickly as the thoughts surfaced in my mind, Oh. Oh no. I can’t leave, the floodgates opened. I began to panic, mildly hyperventilating, and vocalized my suffering. “I’m stuck! I can’t escape. I’m really here. I’m really here. I’m really here.”

Without shame, with tears streaming down my face, I looked my sister in the eye. She gently grabbed my hand, held it and continued to drive.

This was just over one month ago. I’m still processing what it is like to repatriate. I haven’t settled into a new life yet, but I’m starting to feel like I’ve begun settling out of my old life. I’m in transition. I have a new job, but I haven’t started it yet. I’ve found a church, but I don’t know anyone yet.

I’m no longer sleeping on the couch of my sister’s house, but I am still sleeping on an air mattress on my nephew’s bedroom floor. I no longer have my own kitchen, but I am sharing my sister’s kitchen… and neither of us like to share our kitchen… something about me not believing in recipes and washing dishes in a “weird way.”

We haven’t gotten around to clearing out the basement where I will live for the next year, but I am here, sleeping on the floor of an eleven year old’s room, washing my own dishes, missing my housekeeper, running out of money, grateful I have a wonderful job starting soon, already living paycheck to paycheck, and just trying to figure out how to repatriate and be… an American again.

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