What’s that saying about making plans? It’s probably something like – don’t bother making any because 99% of the time you’re going to have to change them – at least that appears to be the case for us, anyway. After signing a contract three years ago for an expat assignment that was supposed to end this summer, then signing a new contract last year to extend our stay in London through 2017, it turns out we won’t be staying for that extra year after all, because, surprise…WE ARE MOVING TO SINGAPORE!
Apologies for the screaming all-caps, but I am thrilled about this. THRILLED, I TELL YOU! (Last time, I promise.)
This unexpected turn of events has actually been in the making for some time now, but it wasn’t officially confirmed until a few weeks ago, so I haven’t been able to tell hardly anyone and I feel like I’ve been keeping this huge, crazy-exciting secret for ages. (Three months totally counts as ages in Terrible Secret-Keeper time, by the way.) It all began back in December while we were in Poland. Cory got an email that his company’s Asia office was moving from Hong Kong to Singapore. And when I heard that, I thought to myself, ‘Well that settles it, we’ll never be moving to Asia!’ because surely I hadn’t racked up enough good karma to deserve something that special. (For those of you that don’t know, I grew up in Singapore as a teenager and have wanted to go back pretty much ever since I left.)
But maybe my good karma bank was a little more cushioned than I thought, or maybe I’m just lucky (doubtful), or it could have simply been fate, but four days before Christmas, Cory came home from work with news that there was an opening in Singapore, and if we wanted it, the job was ours! (Well, technically his, but these expat things always feel like more of a joint venture.) After a few moments of shocked silence, I proceeded to cry like a baby for the next half hour or so, because that’s a normal response to having been given the best Christmas present ever, right? The combination of receiving the news so unexpectedly, plus a little relief that we wouldn’t be spending another year in London (more on that later), and the joy of being handed something I’d been wanting for so long pretty much turned me into an emotional mess for the rest of the holidays.
Like anyone who’s ever been through the expat waiting game knows, I spent the next few months until the contracts were finalized trying really hard not to get my hopes up in case the whole deal fell through. I was completely unsuccessful, of course, because asking me to not think about the future is a little like setting a plate of freshly-glazed Krispy Kreme donuts in front of me and asking me to just eat one. It’s just not going to happen. And while I’m not one for living in the past, one way I got through those months of uncertainty was by embracing my nostalgic side and sifting through memories and old photos at least a few times every week. While not a particularly productive use of time, all of this digging through the past produced quite a few gems in the form of blurry, hastily-composed snapshots from our trip to Singapore in 2007 which you are free to laugh at below. These are, quite possibly, the worst pictures ever, but they are a vast improvement over the 90’s disposable camera photos I have from when I lived there the first time, so…
Can we talk about how cute 5-year-old Lexie is? (And how young-looking 23-year-old me was?!) This trip was the one and only time I’ve returned to Singapore since we moved away at the end of 1999. I still can’t believe I’m about to be moving back again. It’s kind of funny how things work out – 2016 is actually the 20-year anniversary of the first time I moved there. Maybe just a coincidence, but is it also a coincidence that Lexie’s first day of high school will be at the same school where my first day of high school was? That’s probably not unusual for people who continue to live and raise their kids in the same town where they grew up, but in our case, this is something very special. I definitely feel like we are meant to make this move. The timing just feels right.
Speaking of that, I feel like I should address what I mentioned earlier about being relieved to leave London. This is a cut and dry case of It’s Not You, It’s Me. I mean it when I say London is a great place to live, especially for expats. It’s a busy city with virtually limitless things to do and see. Boredom, for most people, is a nonissue. And since such a large portion of the population are expats, assimilating here, particularly if you’re from an English-speaking country, is a piece of cake. So the problem, really, is me. I get uncomfortable when I live in any one place for an extended period of time, and at just over three years, we will have lived in London, in the same flat, longer than we’ve ever lived anywhere as a family. That, coupled with the fact that, thanks to London’s cold, dreary weather, I suffer from something akin to Seasonal Affective Disorder* for about 11 months out of every year, has made me pretty well ready to go for at least a year and a half now.
I do feel a smidgen of regret that we aren’t going to get to experience what I thought was going to be our last year here, though. A few months before the Singapore job came up, we had begun the rigorous, practically college-level application process to get Lexie into the American School in St John’s Wood. We were looking forward to moving closer in to central London and I think the change in scenery would have given my attitude towards London a much-needed makeover, too, if she were so lucky to get in. As fate would have it, we received her acceptance letter to the school right around the same time we heard the news that Singapore was all systems go, too. After so many months of praying for her to get in, it felt strange to decline the invitation. Occasionally I get a touch of what-might-have-been regarding our decision, but I’m sure once we’re in Singapore and enjoying the sun and warmth and another great American School, these lingering doubts will never again cross my mind.
We also had quite a few exciting travel plans in the works, including Greece, Portugal, and Switzerland. With our move less than three months away (and only one school break in between now and then), I don’t think we’ll be able to see any of them before we go. But you know what? I’m not even the least bit sad about it. Even if we’d stayed in Europe for 10 years, I would still be leaving with a laundry list of places I’d wanted to see, but hadn’t been able to. And that’s totally fine – no one ever gets to go everywhere. I do, however, have a brand-new, completely empty passport (with extra pages) that I can’t wait to fill with a bunch of stamps from southeast Asia!
My mom asked me last weekend if I knew where we were going to travel first once we got to Singapore and, surprisingly, my answer was no. As excited as I am to start planning our trips through Asia (especially those island vacations!), now that we know we’re leaving, I’ve been trying really hard to live in the present as much as possible. I’m paying more attention to the everyday – riding the tube, walking through the streets, and just generally going about our usual routine – because there is so much about living here that I know I’m going to miss once we’re gone. I want to experience as much of it as possible before we go. I’ve also made a list of all the things I’ve yet to do in London, and now that it’s warmed up a little, we’re going to start tackling those things on weekends. Given everything we’ve already done, I’m positive when we leave London, it will be with the satisfaction that we took full advantage of our time here.
As of right now, our official leaving London date is the 24th of June. We’ll return to the States for almost two weeks, and then on the 4th of July we’ll board the first of three flights to Singapore! July sounds so far away, but if the past few years are any indication, moving day will be here before we know it!
*I don’t actually have this, but cold days, especially grey and rainy ones, do a number on my sun-loving spirit.
Also, I just did a quick Google and it was Robert Burns who penned the phrase I was trying to remember in the first paragraph:
“The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”
That sounds a lot more poetic than my interpretation, but hey, the sentiment is the same.