I have had the privilege of living abroad with my family of six for a couple of seasons over the past ten years. Living life as an expat helped us acquire the skill of learning to embrace a unique language of one who is from everywhere and nowhere. The impact of this in the context of building relationships can be difficult, especially in the small-talk arena. There is a looming and awkward silence experienced when asked by an unknowing yet interested party, “Where are you from?”, or another favorite, “Have you always lived in Cincinnati?”.
Truth be told, this is our FIFTH move back to the Queen City and our kids have determined that Cincinnati is the easiest and fastest answer to the “Where are you from?” question, though they do often enjoy throwing in some crazy stories of eating scorpions on the streets of Beijing, spending Thanksgiving in Bali where their mom -that is me!- came face to face with a cobra, and eating chicken rice at a hawker center in Singapore. There is a fine line between over sharing and realizing that your “normal” life experiences have not been the same “normal” experienced by those in your current circle of community. Yet, our experiences connect us to a global community and can be normalized by another circle of friends from another season of life -often in the virtual world!- who can recall and remind us that we are indeed, not crazy, and those things really did happen because they experienced them with us.
Building relationships and fostering connection in every season has been significant in our family’s ability to not just survive the transitions, but to thrive within them. Creating time and space to invest in the lives of people throughout our journey has always yielded exponential rewards and yet has also caused some of the deepest heartache as the inevitable goodbyes loom at year end transitions with expats moving to new locations, and some, as we did, returning from host to home cultures. The final transition “back home” was surprisingly the most difficult and the most lonely.
What are some of the lessons I have learned through those seasons of our story?
- It is important to name the reality that there is both good and hard that comes in the excitement of leaving for a new adventure and the heartache of grieving what has been left behind. People, places, sights, smells. We carry memories with us through all of our senses and can be reminded of those things in an instant with one simple and often unexpected awakening of the familiar which can sometimes be disorienting.
- We are all on our own unique journey in life and can easily fall into the comparison of “if only”. Those “if only’s” can steal our joy and keep us from embracing the beautiful gift of today.
- You take yourself with you wherever you go! Take time to invest in developing healthy self-care strategies that incorporate your whole person: body, mind, soul, and spirit. By proactively taking time to foster resiliency in your life, you will be better equipped to navigate whatever your next adventure may bring!
How are you connecting with community in the here and how of your story?
What are some of the lessons you have learned about embracing the unique gift of your story?
Helping individuals, couples, and families navigate transitions in life is a passion of mine. Taking the time to name the beautiful experiences while also identifying the difficult is restorative to the heart, mind, body, and soul. Whether it be in the form of debriefing from cross cultural settings, navigating difficult relationship or role transitions, I consider it an honor to walk with individuals throughout varies places in their life’s journey.