Repatriation and a crisis of confidence

I always knew there would be ups and downs, bumps in the road, hills and mountains. No-one said repatriation was easy. But up until now I think I have actually got off relatively lightly – mostly because I have been too busy to really think about it.

But now we are half a year in to our time back in the UK (half a Year!! Where has that time gone?) and I am having a mini crisis of confidence. What do I do now? Where am I heading? What am I FOR?

To be fair, these kind of little freak-outs could happen to anyone, whether they had ever lived overseas or not. Others might call them a mid-life crisis. But I think the reason it hits people like me who have recently moved back from being abroad is that for so long we have either had a purpose (preparing for a move, the move itself, helping your family settle in somewhere new etc) or an excuse (I can’t get a work visa, I don’t speak the language, there’s no work available, my partner travels too much for me to be able to work etc). That doesn’t of course always equate to contentment as anyone who has read my blog knows (eg this post about feeling like a 1950’s housewife). But it does mean you don’t spend all day with you head in your hands wondering what on earth you are going to DO with the rest of your life.

head in hands

I’ve been here before. Every time we have come back from an overseas posting I have had to re-invent myself. After Jamaica, I was a full-time mum. After Pakistan, I was waiting to go again as I knew it was likely we would get a replacement posting. After St Lucia I retrained as an antenatal teacher.

This time, I am trying to make a go of freelance writing. I’m half way there with some good commissions from great publications (including the Washington Post, the Independent, Euronews, and many others – if interested please check out my portfolio here). But it’s an uphill battle to actually make a living from this and I know I need to find some regular clients before I can start to believe it will actually work. It’s terrifying to actually be faced with the reality of something that for years I have wanted to do but never really dared. So in a way the easy way out would be to find another excuse – we’re moving again, I don’t have time, I can’t get a work visa (!).

All of those things would stop the little voice in my head that tells me “you’re not good enough”.

But I won’t because I can’t. As far as I know right now, we’re here for quite a few years (possibly – gulp! – forever) so I need to stop making excuses. I need to put my big girls pants on, take a deep breath, and make myself do it. Hopefully it won’t be long and I’ll have my repatriation mojo back.

Have you recently repatriated? How are you finding it? Easier than you expected? Harder? Leave some messages below and I will write another blog post about this at some point when I get my head out of my hands….

Photo credit: Emily


12 thoughts on “Repatriation and a crisis of confidence

  1. Ah Clara, your blog dropped in my inbox just after I’d waved the husband off on another foreign assignment. I’ve shut the door, turned the heating up and am embracing the peace.

    Every word of what you’ve just written has resonated with me. I’ve been back over 5 years now and have only just worked out what I am for. I have railed against the injustice of being 50 and having had bugger all of a career as I was following golden boy on his marvellous career trajectory. Inside I was quietly admitting to myself that I was never particularly career minded or driven – but it’s easier to blame someone else. I’ve filled my diary with worthy voluntary work, I’ve been on a course on how to be a successful freelance writer, I’ve had endless lunches and coffees and reunions with former expat friends who are all home and struggling to various degrees, I’ve project managed house improvements, taken elderly relatives on ‘bucket list’ holidays and shepherded my kids through GCSEs and A-levels. I was restless and exhausted all at the same time.

    Recently 2 things have made me stop and rebalance. I bumped into an old acquaintance from my first posting. She is a very creative person, and has been expat for all her married life. She was a graphic designer when I knew her. She then did a course on interior architecture. And started a business importing textiles from the country we were in. Then when she moved again she retrained as a reiki practitioner. And now in London she is taking a full time art degree. And she said to me, ‘It’s ok for us to try all these different things. What makes you happy in one posting may not work in the next. We don’t have to stick to one path, and we don’t even have to be successful at it. I don’t give a shit if it’s worthy or profitable or if people think I can’t stick at something. The fact is that our lifestyle means we keep being picked up, shaken around and dropped in a new life, so why shouldn’t we reinvent ourselves each time?’ It was almost as if I’d been given permission to feel the way I do. So with a great sense of relief I’ve sold the guitar that I learned to play in Egypt and have barely touched since. And I gave away all the beads for all the jewellery that I’m never going to make.

    The second thing that has made me a kinder person both to myself and to others, is a simple book. I’d read it before, years ago, and thought it was cute, but quickly forgot it. But on rereading it for book club, it really got to me this time, perhaps because I’m older, because we’ve recently lost my dear father in law, or because I just needed to hear it. The book is Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. It has made me just stop chasing things that don’t really matter. What matters is my family, my friends and being at peace with myself. I have finally hushed the inner voice saying ‘you’re not good enough’.

    I have embraced my lifelong love of horses. I’ve qualified as a carriage driving coach with Riding for the Disabled and I take disabled adults out in a horse and carriage through the beautiful Oxfordshire countryside. And I have bought my own little hairy pony who I love with all my heart and who is easing the pain of losing my eldest child who has skipped off to Uni without a backward glance.

    For now, I am deeply content!

    I wish you well on your quest for some inner peace – and success in the writing

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Jackie, what a lovely comment. And you are SPOT ON with needing to embrace just being – after all, there is nothing to be sad about in my life. The only thing making me feel this way is the message we have been given from our teens that we need to be “something” have a “career” but actually WHY do we? I love the fact that you have bought a pony and started taking people out in a carriage, what a wonderful thing to do. And so glad to hear that you have found happiness – it should give us all hope.


  2. I can also resonate with what you have posted. Having postponed my career to “trail” after my husband – taking extended time off work with the children, it is easy to forget all that I have done! I have coped with cooking and the finer tuning of the things that make family life work – in countries where society and shopping were not as easy as at home (squid anyone!). I have consoled, comforted and supported the children when they have struggled to make friends, found friends only to have them leave, helped them deal with different school systems (not that my husband didn’t do any of this but as the non-working spouse it definitely became my remit). I even trained as a teacher as I couldn’t pursue my own career in the two countries we ended up in. Now we are home, the boys are settled at school and I am attempting to find myself again and remember what I was before I was Mum, trailing spouse and “housewife”! But feeling like a bit of a flake for trying new things as we moved does make you “hear” those criticisms about continually changing your mind. I love both your post and the above comment! I think I need to read that book!!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I haven’t yet faced repatriation but am already apprehensive about going through the feelings you touch on here. What you say about having a purpose or excuse really stuck out to me. Yesterday I was writing about the weird guilt I have when explaining my life to people back home—I always focus on my purpose/excuse as a way to justify not working a traditional job. So thank you for the reminder to chill and let things come when they do.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m anxiously awaiting our repatriation later this year and I’m taking a bit of time off work to travel and repatriate before finding a new job. While the time off is needed to re-start our lives, I’m scared at the prospect of having so much free time and feeling a bit aimless, but your post was a good reminder to relax and try to enjoy it as much as possible!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think we have all become a bit stuck in a cycle of having to be always productive, producing, getting somewhere…whereas actually life is short and we should make the most of enjoying it while we can (although personally one of the things I DO enjoy and find more satisfying is producing a good story or article….). Good luck with your repatriation – it wasn’t as bad as I had feared.


      • That’s such a good point. We demand so much from ourselves, but as it goes for most writers, we also get immense satisfaction from it. Blogging has been great, because you can get that satisfaction every few days without having to jump through hoops or beg or brag or sell yourself. But of course it’s not income-producing (if you don’t count the occasional Amazon Associates fees which are always very welcome to my family in a form of an Amazon gift card once a month:)

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Ah, Clara, you sound so much like me! I too keep doubting myself, and find excuses so I don’t have to be disappointed again. Making a living off freelance writing is very hard. As you and I know, it’s not like anything is every “safe.” You think you’ve got a foot in the door so one down, another 2-3 to go, when the first one suddenly disappears because an editor changes or their policy no longer allows for freelancers. You constantly have to be on your toes, it’s hard work! I’m impressed you’ve got as much going as you do, knowing the effort behind it. Well done, and please keep it up for all of us:-)

    PS: My excuse these days is that I HAVE to watch the news coming out of our government every single day. Of course I don’t have to, but can’t tear myself away…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha ha don’t worry it is the same for me – the news cycle is SO distracting. And think of us, we are pretty glued to what is going on in the US BUT we have Brexit too which is even more all-consuming. At least I now don’t need to follow SA news and politics quite so closely….


  6. I’m going through this ‘what’s next’ phase too. It’s tricky. I often considering moving back ‘home’, but strangely for some reason the thought terrifies me. Have no idea why. Thanks for your blog. Good luck with the freelancing.

    Liked by 1 person

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