Earlier this week, as I sat in my new home back on the Northern side of the planet, sipping coffee and trying not to make a sound in the early morning hours, in a house that echoes because there is no furniture just yet, it was a reminder of new beginnings and all the changes the last several months have brought.
A year and a half ago, I wrote a piece called Moving & The Stages of Grief and was recently contacted by a number of people who said it both resonated with them and helped them. I took those messages as my cue to go back and examine the words. Ironically, they once again make sense as my life is facing massive change. Now, instead of going abroad and opening my life up to new people and experiences, I am coming back to a place where life moved forward as I was away. Things changed
When the decision was made to return home, I knew I wanted to be as prepared as possible for what I might face. Having just done the move two years prior, I knew the emotions that can accompany the life of an expat. I wasn’t naïve to the fact that returning wasn’t going to be a walk in the park.
When we made the decision to move two years ago, I knew there would be a lot of changes and did everything I could to prepare. And much like I did then, I had done the same in coming back.
But even in doing so, one can never prepare for what they don’t know. You can certainly try, but at some point, you realize you are simply putting one foot in front of the other, trusting it will all work out.
Loss can be many things – the loss of a loved one, the loss of a relationship, the loss of a job. Anyone who has been through any of those things has likely read a multitude of articles about the grieving process and the different stages they will go through.
Moving is no exception. There is a lot of loss associated with packing up and leaving, whether it is to a different state or a different country. Moving abroad was like compounding several of those losses that are singularly difficult and piling them one on top of the other – a game of Jenga.
I had plenty of “oh shit, what have we done” moments after we first arrived to Australia, followed by panic and sadness. I came to realize this was completely normal as we had literally changed everything in our life.
I sat with those moments, but in the early days shortly after the move, didn’t quite know how to process what I was thinking. I was so excited when we made the decision to move, so I was surprised to find myself feeling that way.
But, sometimes feelings aren’t the reality of our circumstances. They are just ways in which each person processes and accepts certain things. Our identities are more than our emotional thoughts.
During that time, I happened to come across an article about expats and the stages they go through as they give up their old life. Their job. Their home. Their friends. Familiarity. Stability. It made sense – grief. Don’t get me wrong, it was my choice to go. I get that. In fact, as I was reading the article that was my first thought – I am not allowed to feel this way. I chose to do this. So, why am I now struggling with it?
But as life would have it, I did. I struggled.
When I made my way across the world the first time, I missed familiar labels in the grocery store and carts that didn’t drive sideways. I missed crossing a road without having to think about a million little things that could result in me being squashed like a pancake. I missed friends. I missed the routine of my old life. I missed my home. I missed colleagues. I missed driving with ease and not having to repeat “to the left” over and over in my head.
The grieving process doesn’t happen in order. It doesn’t have a time frame attached. Some days are better than others. Some remind you of all the amazing experiences you have in front of you, waiting to embrace them. Other days, a photo of friends or someone celebrating a milestone that you will miss brings on sadness.
And now I am doing it all over again, in reverse. Saying goodbye to new friends and life as it was starting to take shape, all while navigating through changes that have happened back home. Only this time, I have a better idea of what to expect. There have been a few things here and there that I didn’t anticipate, but that’s life! Some have been good surprises, while others have been more challenging.
The key in all of it is to allow yourself to experience it – the good, bad, and ugly. By doing so, we eventually process it correctly and get to the stage of acceptance. We find ourselves at peace with where the road of life has led us.
Peace doesn’t mean a life without noise, trouble, struggles, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.
I know waiting around the corner, is a life that has yet to reveal itself. A future that is still unknown. And I am completely okay with all of it.
Although, I guess the joke continues: I am perpetually geographically challenged!
The saving grace in all of this and the one thing that remains consistent is that no matter where the road of life may lead, the people who love you will always be there for you, whether they are half a world away or just down the street!
Cheers to a new week and new beginnings.