Expat tales, Posts

Creating memories: remembering the good forgetting the bad

Tripping down Expat memory lane

I’ve mentioned a couple of times now that we lived in China–Shanghai actually.  I have such amazing memories of our nearly two years there despite it being a really tumultuous time.  I wonder if you asked my close girlfriends back in Australia what they would say about my time in Shanghai.

I’m tripping down memory lane for two reasons today:

  1. We spent a fun weekend catching up with dear friends from Shanghai last weekend in San Diego  and naturally we took a great trip down memory lane (I’ll post a full report on San Diego)
  2. One of my readers asked me to write about the not-so-good stuff about LA and how there are days when you go enough’s enough, I just want to throw in the towel and give it all up just to be back in the comfort zone of family and friends living a normal life.

It was so good to hang out with our neighbours from Shanghai.  We lived in a fabulously salubrious apartment called Tomson Riviera–the most expensive apartments in Shanghai–it was ridiculously convenient to Super Brand Mall, another fabulous Mall, IFC, we had the Shangri-la and great restaurants but we still had a Blind massage and “local” amenities so we felt like we were in China and not some surreal world.


Home in Shanghai

Our neighbours lived in the apartment downstairs from us and they had to put up with our kids thudding up and down the hall like a herd of wild elephants.  We would see each other most days–either in the morning at the gym or around 4:30 for Orange Blossoms or wine (or both–morning and afternoon that is not Orange Blossoms and wine but come to think of it yes to both).  We would also schedule shopping days out or “Tomson Tours” as we liked to call it where a bunch of us from the apartment block would go out and explore areas (like a day trip to Expo) or factories and shops we’d heard about from other expats.

We were each others’ sounding boards, rocks but it was a great balance because we weren’t living out of each others’ pockets.  Our kids (with some 10 years plus between them in ages) are pretty much carbon copies of one another in temperament and roles which cracks us up–especially our two youngest “princess” daughters.

Fast Forward three plus years and they’ve repatriated back to Seattle and we obviously moved back home and are now here.  A lot has happened in both our lives since we moved back home but it was like no time at all had passed, we were just loving catching up and everything clicked back into place.

I wrote the other week about how Americans struggle to laugh at themselves but it was Sue who laughed at me moving to America where I would “never live” and now I have more than one American friend.  It was Sue that had to listen to my ear-bashing of Americans and how Australians don’t really “do” Americans as a rule yet she was one of closest friends in Shanghai.  And it was Sue that came to rescue when my princess was having one of her (very regular) tantrums–oh and of course to help with our many dress-up opportunities.

But it got me thinking about our time in Shanghai–and back to my reader’s feedback.  Not once did our trip down memory lane touch on the bad bits about being there.  We led the most glamorous lives and according to Mr H all I did was “shop, shop, shop” go to the gym (yes, I was a gym junkie) and eat at fabulous restaurants and jump the queue and get into great VIP bars inside the best Clubs in Shanghai. But living in China was also hard.  There’s not enough time in this post to try to get you over the line to understand the daily drudgery but it was there.  (Hmmmm maybe it’s time to publish that book after all.)

So why are trips down memory lane always so good?  I don’t know much about psychology but I’m guessing that has a lot to do with it, that it’s in our best interests to remember the good bits and flush out the bad bits.  We do remember some bad bits–and that’s how we grow as people but by and large we look back on life (hopefully) rather fondly.

Get me out of here

When we were in Shanghai I remember vividly wanting to go home.  I think it took me eight months to get over.  I loved it but I hated not having friends (despite of course having friends).  The closing chapter of my book was all about the realisation when we left that I had friends the whole time.  Good friends.  But those friends played different roles in my life compared to my friends at home.  I likened my time in Shanghai to The Wizard of Oz that, like Dorothy, I had what I needed the whole time: Dorothy needed to (ironically) get home to Oz and me, well I had friends.

Jump forward nearly four years in the future to today in a new country yet again.  I have made some great friends here in such a short time.  I’ve been welcomed and included and had lots of fun.  Repeat after me: I have made friends, I have made great progress.  There was a time not so long ago I may have forgotten this lesson though.

was pretty miserable a couple of months ago.  I announced to Mr H that I’d had enough, I wasn’t happy that the kids were missing out on the great things Australian private schools had to offer them and I wasn’t sure this is were we should raise our kids for an extended period.  That was totally my “get me out of here–now” moment.  I hadn’t shared it directly with you to put it quite as blunt as that but I had written about some challenges we were having, conflicts in ideology and questioning whether we fit in or not.

I missed the “anniversary” of us being here eight months.  What a great sign that things are on the up-and-up again.  Of course we fit in. The kids are getting a great experience going to school in a different country and (hello!) living amongst the rich and famous has (big-time) the fun element.

Coming back from holidays does that to you though–you get this spring in your step, a rejuvenation like you’re ready to kick on.  I felt precisely the same way when we got back from our Spring Break in Wales.  We used to call them “Get out of China” days you needed to regularly get out in order to come back in fresh.  Maybe it’s the same wherever you are as an Expat?

And catching up with friends that get you also does that to you–recently having dear friends here from Australia and just his past weekend with our Shanghai-American friends.  They’ve given me my confidence back that I’m doing ok.

Wherever you are you have your good days and your bad days–home, overseas, on holidays.  However much money you have you have your good days and your bad days.  No matter how successful you are you have your good days and your bad days.  What I’m learning all over again is that, despite my fear and loathing of rollercoasters, that’s life.  Hop on and enjoy the ride and essentially they’re the same wherever you go.  OK, maybe some are bigger than others but the bigger the climb, the bigger the thrill.

Enjoy–and make the most of–your rollercoaster.

xx It Started in LA xx

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