They say expat life is like living in bubbles, it’s not a real life, it’s a cruise ship life, sailing through an exotic land of language, culture, diet, sartorial choices, and many other foreign trivial excitements… you name it. Most of the time it is a nice life, at least on the material front, it is a life that usually either more affordable than the one back home, or it’s better. You get to meet different people, all nationalities, all ethnicities, all level of educations, in short – all walks of life. You see them in restaurants, bars, pubs, chambers balls, charity functions, and family fun fairs. Until one day, one day you receive a notice from the corporate headquarter about a re-assignment, the cruise is over; until one day, one day your trailing spouse fed up with packing and unpacking, moving and relocating, and decided to go home, the bubble bursts… then you are hit by the harsh realities of the real life, a life where people do feel sad, helpless, powerless, and useless, where you say as many goodbyes as hellos.
One of my very close friends is about to say goodbye for the second time this month to someone he holds dearly to his heart. Two weeks ago he saw his wife off at airport and this weekend will be his dog… For a lot of reasons, parting with the latter is more heart wrenching…
Not an animal lover myself but I have seen him with the dog, like the scenes in those heartwarming human-animal pictures, he and his dog brought the best side of each other. Seeing him depressed about the dog’s forthcoming departure, knowing I may cross the line of getting involved in his domestic affairs, I said – “keep him”.
Obviously my friend can’t. He has a long list of reasons why the dog has to travel thousands of miles away to another country it has never been before. Altogether, “he’s better off to leave than be with me”, my friend said, sad.
Selfless love is at the forefront of my mind, yet I was stunned. I realized how much I don’t like the sound of that sentence.
I don’t know about most of you, but in my opinion there are only few years in our lives that we really get to live for ourselves: When we were young we lived off our parents’ dreams and strived to make them proud; when we get old enough or matured, we then take on the responsibilities for raising children, taking care of parents, providing for the loved ones; later the years when we grow old, slowly, but inevitably… we do our best not to trouble anyone else in the family, or friends -we prefer to go away quietly, dignified.
It may be just about everyone’s life but it actually is more acutely true for expats. Here when you are half the world away from family and friends, where your life is not all about drinking campaigns at Sunday brunches in five star hotels like everyone thought was; where the newly established friendship or companionship could be transient; where you can only follow the weekend footy through online streaming; mom’s comforting meal is literally a distant yearning when falling ill… doesn’t it make you want to be selfish just for once?
Keep the dog, he may be as happy afar as he’s here with you, but he won’t be better off without you, however for sure, you will be much happier with him staying.
Keep the dog, for heaven’s sake.
I may have crossed the line again. I know.