Panning for gold, repatriate-style

Panning for gold in Australia

“Don’t bother me — I’m fossicking.”

I know, I know — not the most flattering photo of me. But it’s the only one I have from my gold fossicking* expedition somewhere in New South Wales many years ago, and I’m not above a little public humiliation to entertain you, my faithful readers.

What I remember most about that day is the sun beating down on me relentlessly as I swirled dirt and water in my fossicking pan, hoping to find enough gold to live out my days in the luxury I felt I deserved. One glance at my disgruntled expression should tell you how that worked out for me.

Fossicking licenceI kept swirling, despite the heat, because the lure of that most precious of metals was too strong to resist. An eternity passed before I noticed a few flakes of gold (calling them “nuggets” would be outrageously optimistic) in my pan. Not enough to retire on, but still, I felt triumphant. Gold is gold, right?

I have no idea where my bounty is now. I haven’t thought of it in decades, and only remembered it once I started wondering how to propel myself out of this repat rut I’ve fallen into.

Don’t see the connection? Well at the risk of sounding cheesy, I’ve been deliberating on those aspects of my life — people, habits, expectations — that, like my little yellow flakes, were once gold to me, but have since lost their lustre.

I think this is a common occurrence, especially once we reach midlife. But it might be even more widespread among repatriates. Exposure to all those different values, attitudes, and behaviours can lead us to re-evaluate our own wants and needs once the merry-go-round has stopped and we have a chance to catch our breath again.

So I ask myself: What is taking up space in my life that no longer serves me? What have I outgrown? What changes can I make that will better reflect who I am today, as opposed to 5 years ago when I was an expat wife and mother, or 24 years ago when I was searching for treasure under the hot Australian sun?

Author Claude M. Bristol writes, “One secures the gold of the spirit when he finds himself.” I’m sure if Mr. Bristol were alive today, he would tidy up his male-centric pronouns. I forgive him his lack of gender neutrality, though, because I completely get what the guy is saying. We owe it to ourselves to determine what is no longer “gold” in our lives, and then — this is the hard part — we have to figure out what to do about it.

A 24-karat life? That would definitely wipe that scowl off my face!

* For those of you who think I was gleefully swearing in my first couple of paragraphs, fossicking is Australian for “the gathering of minerals as a recreation,” according to the Government of South Australia.

Happy Australia Day to all my friends Down Under!


About Maria

I'm a Canadian repatriate, former expat spouse, mother to two TCKs (and one yellow Lab), mentor to new immigrants, writer, reader, world traveller (grounded for now). I write about expat/repat issues and am still trying to figure out my place in the world.
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