On a flight from Singapore to Manila yesterday, I felt a flash of fear. What if I’ve chosen the wrong path? I’ve always lived with the certainty that my life is exactly as it was meant to be. But what if I’ve been wrong? What if I’m wasting my life in the Philippines?
The classic expatriate toast has always been “to absent ones”, as though friends and family have left us rather than the other way around. My fear is that I will come to regret all the years I’ve been absent from my family in Canada — the twenty-four years that won’t come back — my chair sitting empty at Thanksgiving tables and birthday parties, the Christmas gifts I never mailed — so busy with my own life on the other side of the world; away while my father fought cancer and my brother’s sons were born and my grandparents died. My chair has sat empty at weddings, funerals, christenings and family reunions. And has it been worth it? What have I done that is worth the price of those empty chairs and absent years? I honestly don’t know.
I really can’t say if I’ll leave Asia. It’s an unlikely love affair, to be sure. I curse the struggles and the conflicts, yet whenever I arrive in Manila my spirits soar and my heart sings. I know this crazy place. Here, I can be ME. But there is a price for all those years of empty chairs. I think I must try to live my life well, to do something worthwhile while I’m here…