Sixteen months away is a boldly short yet oddly long stretch of time to spend away from your happy familiar, your easy comfort zone. You might think ‘saying yes more’ or ‘complimenting a stranger’ is leaving your comfort zone and in all the everyday ways, they are, but exiting your comfort zone is all about finding yourself in that charming limbo of new familiarity.
I wandered through the same roads and lanes that I’ve always known, feeling slightly out of sorts because while I know these roads, I don’t know them. Tree branches misshapen from extreme gusts of wind, unfamiliar faces because everybody has grown up and moved away in these sixteen months, paved gravel that I usually glimpse from my car, Taylor Swift blissfully providing a quixotic soundtrack to my thoughts.
Even my plugged-in soundtracks feel unfamiliar. Albums I’d grown to love on minibuses and ferries in Hong Kong feel almost uncomfortable and foreign back on home turf. And old tracks make me feel like a teenager. There’s no in-between, no happy medium, at least not right now.
My typical routines are broken and marred, coffee breaks with the girls no longer as everybody plods along with their new jobs, promotions and homes, lazy afternoons at Granny’s with a tea and Mini Roll no longer because I’ll never be able to enjoy those snatches of peaceful joy again, drives home with a sneaky singalong no longer because my tiny dot of a car is no longer.
New familiarities are slowly but surely coming together. Those precious early mornings spent cooped up on my windowsill watching the sun rise and bob along wintry landscapes. Breakfast and a coffee with my Mama, catching up on the day and sharing our daily plans. Catching up on emails and replying to Tweets and comments. Solid work with no music in the office until lunchtime beckons. Lunchtimes are no longer Hong Kong rice boxes but a sneaky salad. Afternoons with my expat girls have been replaced with girl boss afternoons. In the evening? I can go downstairs(!!), still a novelty, and invite friends over or head out for peaceful evening walks in all of my old favourite spots that seemingly never change. I can count on that, at least.