"Wait, what the hell is Venmo?"
We were settling the tab at dinner, and I needed to collect some cash.
"Are you serious, Alex?"
Well, yes, actually. I didn't know about Venmo or TopGolf or about half the music we'd heard on the radio while driving to Colorado.
"Geez, you've missed a lot," she said with a laugh.
She wasn't kidding.
One friend is already through with a year of law school. Another friend is a year into dentistry school. My friends were regaling me with their own adventures to new states and backcountry trails. Others recalled sadder or more stressful times.
My best friend is engaged and about to start a new job. We toured her new house — one she'd already had for a year — and I just stood there, in awe of how beautiful her life was shaping up.
This trip, as it turned out, wasn't really about me. This time, it was all about my people.
Now, I know I'm coming off pretty vain here. "Wow, she moves abroad and she thinks everything's always going to be about her."
But hear me out. In my first few returns to the States, it was me who had changed. The places and faces I came back to, they were familiar and comfortable. But I knew how different I felt. Friends were overflowing with questions about my new life, and I loved sharing it all with them.
This trip, though, it wasn't me with the news. Sure, folks had questions about life abroad, but not many.
And why was that?
Because now it was me with the run-of-the-mill answers.
In a few days, I'll be flying back to China, to the same apartment I've had for a year now, working the same job I've had since I've moved abroad. I'll be with the same (gorgeous) guy, going to the same restaurants, seeing the same baristas at the same coffee shops.
What's so exciting about that?
My "new and exciting adventure" had become ... my life. And as bright and beautiful as I still think it is, my friends and family were the exciting ones this time. I wanted to hear every detail about their past years, and all the accomplishments they were experiencing.
At that same best friend's home — that one nestled in the gorgeous digs with her now-fiance — we sat flipping through her Venmo feed.
"I literally had no clue this was a thing," I said, shaking my head.
She chuckled. "Yeah, well, you're bound to miss stuff when you're halfway around the world."
Cue nostalgic Alex and her overactive tear ducts.
"You know, though, that I'll always be there for you, right? For the big things at least?"
"Of course," she said as we hugged it out.
And while it never feels like enough, we both knew it would be. At least until this expat finds her way a little closer to home.