As a professional on expatriate assignment, I accept that my job is a contract, and that it will come to an end. Some days that gives me motivation to finish my job in the allotted time; other days I make time for a talk or experience that I might otherwise have put off. But there is always a sense of temporary-ness lurking in the background. The role within the company, the inclusion in planning and meetings, the friendships, all will be transient. I know that I can be recalled at any time, moved around without needing to be given a reason.
I think it comes home most outside of work, though. There is so little in my life that is my own. I have a wonderful car that I don’t own. I have a lovely apartment that belongs to someone else. It is filled with pictures on the walls of places I’ve never been, and of people I’ve never met. The furniture and plants were chosen by someone else; there are figurines on the window sill and a glass case of artifacts that hold memories for the owner.
My books, linens, clothes, and toiletries are my own, but little else. It’s helped me to learn how my chosen and selected surroundings do define me, and I understand how I grew, together with my house and, once, my family, to make a home. The blustery rain beats on the darkened windows, the apartment sighs with forced ventilation and the quiet slosh of the dishwasher. I’m lucky in lots of ways, but it all feels so impermanent and impersonal.