Over the weekend, some recent and unforeseen circumstances have served as a great reminder to appreciate the journey – not the plan or way we think life is supposed to turn out – but life as it happens. In the moment.
A few weeks ago, as I walked into the consulate to renew my daughter’s passport, I broke into tears at the sight of the American flag. For the first time since packing our life and heading abroad, I was technically on American soil. What was supposed to be a simple appointment, turned into an emotional experience. And if I am being completely honest, I even shocked myself a little.
I used to be diligent about telling people that just because we moved abroad, it doesn’t make me any less of an American. And as the days and months would pass, I found myself holding on to the pieces of my former life that were important, while still trying to embrace and acclimate to a new way of life and culture here.
Being an expat is interesting in that regard – you left your home, but you don’t quite fit in your new one either. And until you have been through it yourself, it’s difficult to understand. Your home will always be your home, even though you are trying to build a new one somewhere else.
Last year, as I was preparing for my first Thanksgiving abroad, I had attended an event at the children’s school. As the national anthem played, I realized everything they were about to learn in school was completely foreign to me.
While I was proud to know my children were given an opportunity to experience a different lifestyle and culture, I was also saddened by the realization that a lot of history and tradition that I value and want to pass on to them are no longer things they will learn in school.
Funny enough, my son came home from school last week declaring, “mommy, I was told we don’t speak American English here and I need to spell with Australian English.”
While I thought it was a bit silly considering he’s 7 years old and spent nearly 6 of those 7 years living in America, it simply comes with the territory when you are living in a foreign country. (Sidenote: my children have been instructed never to call me ‘mum’)
So, this week as we prepare to celebrate another Thanksgiving Down Under, I am trying to embrace the entire journey over the last few years for what it is – the good, the bad, and the ugly. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and that each piece of our life and the people we meet along the way are for a season, a reason, or a lifetime.
And while I don’t have any answers to which category this particular experience falls into just yet, I do know that something I don’t think I will ever get used to is the flip in seasons.
My calendar says November but my closet says summer. A time usually reserved for the best kept sweaters (jumpers for my Aussies) to find the way to the front of the closet has been replaced by summer dresses, rompers, and sandals.
And even now, I am still confused.
A holiday signified by crisp autumn air, falling leaves, and the turn before the Christmas season is upon us, has been replaced by trips to the beach. In fact, I had to cut a call with my mother short this morning to take a video of the dolphins playing.
Weather aside, I realized that while those around me may not understand the holiday or the reason we celebrate (although it is quite a sorted story if you truly think about the history of Thanksgiving – but I will spare you the history lesson), we still do so as a reminder to reflect upon the previous year and all the things we can be grateful for.
And for me that is why I celebrate, even though the sun is shining and I am halfway around the world from anything that is reminiscent of the holiday, it is a time to reflect and to give thanks. Whether you celebrate with family & friends or you choose to skip the pomp and circumstance for personal reasons, it’s a time to be grateful.
Some years, finding thanks may prove more difficult than others, but there is always something. Even in the worst of scenarios, there is a silver lining. Sometimes you just need to intentionally shift your focus and energy until you reach the light at the end of the tunnel.
It’s there, sometimes the path to that light is just a little more difficult to navigate through.
This holiday, as you celebrate with loved ones, near or far, may your hearts and eyes be open and may you find strength, happiness, and gratitude in your life – even if it has been a difficult year.
Cheers to a new week and finding pumpkin pie before the weekend!