Christmas Eve – I can’t believe how quickly the time has flown by! I’m actually sitting in the (New York) office, unable to focus on the massive last minute work I have to get to, so instead I will take a time to reflect.
I’ve now been back in the U.S. for more than 6 months (that’s counting the overseas travel too) and so far my repatriation process has really been a series of ups and downs. Certainly from the start, I had a feeling of panic – “what have I done!?!” and could not wait to go back to Hong Kong the moment I could.
That desire to go back was so strong, that instead of waiting wistfully for an excuse, I just made up my mind to head over there “just because.” So within 3 months of exiting Hong Kong immigration for the last time as a proper resident, I was back.
The trip was like wrapping myself in a blanket of comfort and familiarity, but it probably took me a step back in my repatriation process, since I was meant to be forcing myself into this transition of going back into what should be (and will again be) familiar, by first stepping through several layers of unfamiliarity.
But I’m stubborn. Plus, I admit I was just being a bit of a romantic in going back. I was following a feeling – something that led me to Hong Kong and all the necessary life growth that came with it in the first place. It’s at once crazy, perhaps brave, and definitely impetuous – but I suppose that’s who I’ve become — quite a 180 from the conservative, play-it-by-the-book, always wanting to please nerd-type I was when growing up.
When I came back from my first return trip to HK (I say first, because a second one is coming up very quickly actually), I felt worse. Work was extremely slow in NY (it was August though), and I kept longing for the South China Morning Post headline cases I knew my boss was working on in Hong Kong without me. I had said dating had picked up in NY, but the person I met before my HK hiatus didn’t exactly want to wait for me (NY goes by a totally different watch, and if you are not present for just a week, well you can consider yourself gone), and in the meantime a piece of my heart had been left behind in HK.
But then I filled up my longing with travels across the US, spanning from the Northeast to the Southwest, visiting some of my very best friends, catching up with babies who are now toddlers, attending a pair of weddings, making new work connections, and even patching up one frayed friendship. It was a pretty productive time in that sense, and of course I was loving the regular contact with my family.
While my progress professionally has been slow, it’s getting there. In addition to adding more matters for my first client, I was part of a successful pitch to a big client in China, and had been given a shot to prove myself to one of the firm’s more prominent regulatory partners. I still don’t see myself as a traditional “BigLaw” lawyer, but I’m happily looking to finding my way.
And with all this US momentum finally gathering again, of course I have a trip to Hong Kong scheduled in about ten days’ time! Of course!
And the strange thing is that this time I’m not as anxious to roll back into Victoria Harbour. I feel a little regret in making these plans – it’s a bit of a dent to the things I’ve been working on in NY (I’ll be in the midst of a filing deadline for a Missouri based case from the other side of the world, and once again gambling on whether or not another nice person I’d just met will wait for me); and in all (expected) actuality – life is moving on in Hong Kong WITHOUT ME! I just found out that I won’t be sitting at my old desk as I did before, and won’t even be able to sit in my own team since we are adding a “new hire”!
When I heard about this “new hire” I was just gutted. I knew I was wrong to feel upset, but given how rare and selective my team is about hiring laterals, I thought there was no way I could be “replaced”! Of course, that would be unfair thinking – I did leave and life must go on. I was being a bit immature – much like the person who breaks up with you and then cannot tolerate there being someone new in your life either.
Fortunately, I got over that sore feeling – especially when I heard the “new hire” was a secondee from the London office, who was not staying permanently. Instead of there being a new “significant other” it was more like a cousin moving in temporarily. That I could handle.
In other news, another of my greatest friends of Hong Kong has finally made concrete plans to also repatriate, and by the third time I come round to Hong Kong (I get a feeling there will be more visits) this friend, who had become a rock for me in HK, won’t be there. She was the kind of friend you could call on randomly for an impromptu visit that would end up spanning the day, taking you to random places, ingesting and imbibing an assortment of goodies, and making exquisite purchases you’d never make on your own. That’s the kind of friend that’s surely always with you no matter where in the world you are, but still, I will miss having her in my second home of Hong Kong.
But the truth is – life is always in flux, and I need to accept that I’ve left Hong Kong. I do and I don’t. On the one hand I’m getting back into practicing US law, and yet I carry on with a cross-border practice, with a focus on business development aimed at providing HK advice to US-based clients; I’m reconnecting and meeting people in NY, and yet I find it so hard to let go of special emotions I have associated with HK.
The best advice I’ve heard so far as to how to deal with this – just go with the flow. Right now the flow goes every which way, even up against itself. So all I can do is just tolerate the turbulence for now.