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Yesterday, as I turned the calendar to welcome April, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past year. I have been doing that a lot lately – earmarking all the “a year ago” moments. As we celebrated Easter and new beginnings, I realized it was also the day we arrived in Australia a year ago. 8 suitcases. 4 people. One foot in front of the next.

Full of wonder and excitement, the journey began as we were greeted by kangaroos at the front door of the villa we would call home for the next few months – 4 to be exact, before we would pack up and move again to be closer to the beach.

And while those first few months were full of exciting moments like learning how to drive, chasing kangaroos, and making life work with the limited things that fit into those suitcases, reality soon set it.

What I thought would be an adventure progressively turned into one of the most personally challenging experiences of my life. I realize now I was naïve to think this would be “just another move” and by changing everything, I wouldn’t struggle.

The kids are happily chasing dolphins, building sand castles, and playing with their cousins. My husband is finally home and surrounded by the support of his family. And well, for me, there are good days and there are bad days.

Admitting that is difficult, particularly because I have always been that person who could easily navigate my way through almost anything. And I often feel guilty for struggling because life at the beach is beautiful, my children are happy, and there are many things to be grateful for. But doing life under the umbrella of so much change creates internal struggle – constantly wondering where you fit and questioning everything along the way.

I was talking with a friend earlier this week. We met months ago in the airport as I was peacefully sipping my morning coffee. She came up to me to introduce herself as she liked my dress. As she started talking, there was a familiarity – we talked the same!

And 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.

She has been here now for over 10 years and as I listened to her talk about the early days and struggles she went through during her first two years after arriving, I felt normal – like everything I had been thinking, feeling, and trying to process was completely okay. It was refreshing.

I have always believed that people are put in our lives at exactly the time we need them to show up. Some will be with us for the long haul, while others are simply meant to pass through.

There were a lot of parallels between our stories – both giving up well-established careers and walking away from the people who made up our tribe, the people who had supported us through everything to follow a new path.

It was exactly what I needed to hear at that exact moment.

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 us, they become a part of our very being. Our relationships and both the people and things we choose to allow in our life are based on substance rather than circumstance.

And 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 might find themselves navigating through identity crisis or culture shock.

But until you have gone through it yourself, it is difficult to understand. I can safely say, I had no idea how to even begin to prepare myself for this. I had worked so hard to create the life I left, I figured it would be easy to step into my new one halfway around the world.

I was wrong.

In the year that we have been here, 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 – including my marriage.

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

And while this move has presented struggles I wasn’t quite prepared for, I know I am stepping into an even truer and better version of myself. And for that, I am grateful.

Each day brings new opportunities to put one foot in front of the next, stepping closer to the destination. Some days those steps are easier than others. And some days those steps feel more like a slow-crawl over a very large boulder.

The reality of my own experience of the last year, combined with the conversation with my friend, reminded me that nobody has it “all together.” We are all struggling with something.

And much like her sharing her experience helped me with what I was going through, I am hopeful that by being authentic and owning that life is hard at times, these stories help you.

But this isn’t just limited to sharing stories from behind a computer screen. We all have an opportunity to help others by sharing our experiences or extending a listening ear. Learning from one another. Allowing ourselves to grow, both through our own experiences and by understanding those of others.

The bigger question that all of this posed for me was, “who do you want to be?”

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 leaning into the growth that will come as a result of the struggle or are you choosing to remain stuck? 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?

This week, let’s all challenge ourselves to share our experiences, good or bad. Every single one of us has been through something and will continue to go through difficult things in life. Whether it is listening to a new friend talk about a similar struggle that adds perspective to your own, talking with another who is struggling to balance work and family, or providing a shoulder for the friend who is struggling with aging parents.

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.

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

Cheers to a new week and figuring out who you want to be!

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