Song For Departing Expats
I learned the song “When We Were Young” by Adele during the time I prepared for my family’s departure from India. The song and lyrics resonated with my sentiment at that time. It has become my most recent favorite song by Adele.
Before I go further, here is a quote by Azar Nafisi. This quote became a key element to connect with Adele’s song “When We Were Young”.
“You get a strange feeling when you are about to leave a place, like you not only miss the people you love, but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and the place, because you will never be this way ever again.”
I always wondered what it is that makes me emotional and sad about leaving each country after having lived there as an expat. Azar Nafisi’s quote made me realize that besides saying goodbye to my friends, I say goodbye to myself and the life at a certain period of time which makes me sad.
When We Were Young
“When We Were Young” sings romantic nostalgia of one’s past according to many song analyses. The article “What Does When We Were Young by Adele Mean?” written by Clifford Stumme helped me interpret and understand the song on a deeper level.
Everybody here is watching you
‘Cause you feel like home
You’re like a dream come true
While Adele sings about “meeting up with her old friends from the past and making amends with one person in particular”, the song is really about her “making amends with her own past, represented by one friend”. (via) In expat life, I thought that the one person in the song could represent an expat life in one country, yourself in the past as an expat, or your child(ren) with whom you spent time overseas.
A city in a foreign country that you spend a significant period of time becomes home to your heart. When I listen to the song now, I see Mumbai as if it was in a movie.
You look like a movie
You sound like a song
My god this reminds me
of when we were young
When the time comes to leave our life overseas due to an end to my husband’s assignment, I often have flashbacks of the past in my mind especially the beginning of our time in the country. While I have replays of the past in the head, an expat life overseas looks like a movie to me and when I listen to the songs that I loved at certain times evoke the feelings that I had.
Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might be exactly like we were
As it gets closer to the end of your time in a city overseas as an expat, you find yourself trying to photograph people and places with fond memories. You capture moments with your families and friends in photographs to remember the good times.
I was so scared to face my fears
Nobody told me that you’d be here
And I swore you moved overseas
That’s what you said, when you left me
When you move from one country to another, you could receive another wave of your emotions that you dragged from your previous life sometimes. You receive your boxes shipped from the previous home. You open up boxes and see things that remind you of the time you spent in the country you have just left. It is exciting and dreadful at the same time because I might be revisited by the feelings that I don’t expect to come back when I touch the items that bring back the warm and fuzzy feelings of my past.
It’s hard to win me back
Everything just takes me back
To when you were there
And a part of me keeps holding on
Just in case it hasn’t gone
The place, people and memories seem to get knotted together once you leave the place. When I think of the place I have lived in the past, the memories of the people I know from the place seem to always come back, especially of those with my family and friends.
I believe that your relationship with people around you evolves in a special way during the time of your life overseas especially with your own children. The memories with my children all seem to freeze in time with the place from the point I leave. It is difficult to me to face when I leave because it is a realization and acceptance that the time has moved on.
When the time comes, expats always have to go back to where they came from.
With nostalgia, I keep going back to Adele’s “When We Were Young” as I reminisce about my fond memories of Mumbai.