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Last week, as another trip around the sun came full circle, I couldn’t help but reflect on all the moments from the last few years. My birthday happened to mark the day two years ago, that I resigned. We left, bound for Australia, 4 weeks later.

Full of wonder, the journey began.

And while those first few months were full of exciting moments like learning how to drive, chasing kangaroos, and making life work from halfway across the world, reality soon set it.

What I thought would be a great adventure progressively turned into one of the most personally challenging experiences of my life. It was a beautiful experience that I wouldn’t change for anything in the world, but it was equally balanced with a lot of challenges – many of which I wasn’t prepared for and some of which I had simply hoped I wouldn’t have to be prepared for.

Now, as an expat returning home, I am navigating through some of the same feelings from my early days living abroad. But instead of being surrounded by everything new and unfamiliar, I am home. Certain things have changed. I’ve changed.

Shortly after arriving in Australia, I was sitting at the airport peacefully sipping my morning coffee before boarding a flight to Melbourne for publisher meetings. This woman came up to me to introduce herself. As she started talking, there was a familiarity.

As a new friendship began to take shape, we realized we were more than just two North American girls living down under who shared an accent, we shared similar experiences – both walking away from the life we had built in exchange for something new. Career-minded women who realized that in walking away, we faced our own internal struggle of trying to redefine who we are and what we do from halfway across the world.

There were a lot of parallels between our stories – there still are, as we are both starting new chapters of life – me on this side of the planet and her on the other side.

I have always believed that people are put in our lives at exactly the time we need them to show up. She showed up when I needed someone who understood exactly what I was going through. And in many ways, she needed me just as much.

As women, particularly as we age and become more accepting of who we were each created to be, things like our careers and our friendships breathe life into our very existence, they become a part of our being. Our relationships and both the people and things we choose to allow in our life are based on substance rather than circumstance.

When you walk away from those things and find yourself halfway around the world simply trying to figure it out, it should come as no surprise that one can find themselves navigating through a bit of culture shock.

It happened to both of us and we found peace in knowing that each of us had experienced something similar.  

When I left for Australia, I had no idea how to even begin to prepare myself for that struggle. And if I said doing it in reverse is easier than leaving, I would be lying. It comes with its own set of challenges. Now, I just happen to be doing it as a single parent as well.

In the time I have been gone, I have laughed and I have cried. I have missed friends and I have made new ones. I have had moments of joy and moments of deep sadness. I have had moments of success and moments of failure. I have questioned everything. And I have learned to be okay with all of it.

Since my return, I get asked a lot of questions, “Is everything okay? What will you be doing for work? How are the kids doing? Are you going to keep writing? Will you still go back and forth between here and there?”

I don’t have all the answers. I simply remain open to whatever life has in store. And on the days where emotions or circumstances get the better of me, I simply extend myself some much-needed grace and realize that it is all part of the deal. All I can do is to continue to live life and remain unapologetic for simply being myself – bad days included.

And while the move home was done on the backdrop of extenuating circumstances, each day brings a new opportunity to put one foot in front of the next, stepping closer to the destination. Some days those steps are easier than others. And some day those steps feel more like a slow-crawl over a very large boulder.

The reality of my own experience over the last two years reminds me that nobody has it “all together.”

Much like my friend did for me in my early days of life in Oz, we have an opportunity to help others by sharing our experiences and extending a listening ear. Learning from one another. Allowing ourselves to grow through our own experiences and by understanding those of others.

Whether you are navigating through being the new kid on the other side of the planet, or you are returning home shattered because your happily ever after didn’t happen, I guarantee someone else is going through something similar and is waiting for someone like you to come along and remind them that it’s all going to be okay.

When life gets hard and struggles present themselves, do you retreat or do you share? Are you allowing human connection to guide you or are you allowing fear to hide you away from the reality that life isn’t perfect? Are you allowing yourself to laugh at the bumps in the road or are the potholes on the road of life swallowing you whole?

Who are you?

I truly believe the most amazing human connections are made when you trust the people in your life with your messy and know they will love you through it.

When we share our struggles and our experiences, we grow and connect in ways that allow us to be more authentic, in every aspect of life and our relationships.

Cheers to a new week and figuring out who you want to be when life gets messy.

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