For weeks, I’ve fallen into the habit of over-rationalizing everything, suspending emotions over reason, getting too busy to pause, and keeping a neutral face amidst all the hasty changes that come with goodbyes.
Having moved cities, houses, apartments, schools, and jobs like I have, I deduce my lack of emotion to experience. I almost think I’m a pro at leaving—like one tough cookie who doesn’t easily crumble.
Moving to a new country? No problem!
For a moment now, I’m assessing my supposed toughness. Am I simply skirting away from “weaker” emotions to avoid the vulnerability of sadness? Am I staunchly just preserving my optimism to push away the fact that I will soon be unable to see family and friends anytime I want, that my life and career are about to change, that my routine will be entirely new, and that my identity may take another shape with the newness of everything?
I always wonder how much of me and our marriage will change. As we grow individually and together, we know there are inevitable changes and phases. We vowed to embrace these together, and it helps that we’re both truly excited about the countless adventures that await in our new life.
I will conclude that this lack of sadness is a good sign. We know for certain that we’ll be back to visit every year, that family and friends will find their way to visit, and that our new country is one direct flight away.
Goodbye sounds as final as it is pessimistic. Let us not have that.
As an ambitious teenager, I wrote one quote over and over again in many planners and notebooks. It goes: “The more challenges you take, the better person you become.”
Changes are challenges that should bring out the best in us if we decide to respond with a healthy attitude. I want to be friendly to Mr. or Ms. Change (Let’s be gender-neutral here!).
I want to be the kind of expat who is respectful of a new culture and place, who looks forward to new friends and experiences, who will make the best of the situation with resilience, a sense of humor, and a refusal to compare and judge.
My favorite word from way back is possibilities. It is big, wide open, abstract, and free.
We’re soon going to face a lot of possibilities: growing stronger together as a married couple, building a family, making deep connections with new amazing people, discovering new skills and harnessing old ones, exploring the rich heritage of a new continent, extending our culinary repertoire with new bold flavors, and the general expansion of identity that comes from personal growth.
In an effort to tie myself to my words, I’ll share some key things that I take with me to manage this phase:
Be patient with myself. I will have to adjust, adapt, learn, belong, thrive. These will not happen in an instant, but these will happen. I like the well-intentioned warnings and precautionary tales from people who experienced expatriation. My key takeaway is that it will be different—and different is fascinating.
Enjoy the process. “It’s just as much about the process as it is about the result.” It is a phase of becoming, and isn’t that exhilarating? There is no rigid project plan to obsess about. There is no need to stress unnecessarily about things I can’t control. Like climbing mountains, it really is more about enjoying the journey rather than hurriedly ascending to a zero-visibility peak.
Don’t wish for things past. One life-changing piece of advice that I got after leaving a job was to never look back and to never compare my present with my past. Accept all about what’s new—both experiences you perceive as good and those you perceive as bad. After all, we often grow the most from experiences that push us out of our comfort zone. Don’t force anything to measure up to the past. Dealing with the change means not fighting it at all.
Take time to breathe, to appreciate life in all its changing colors, to welcome the differences and the sameness, to smile just as much as I analyze.
There will be disorientation, a sense of loss, an uncertainty, even some chaos from literally and figuratively unpacking the old life and sorting out the new. But all those are temporary.
In the end, isn’t it such a rare beautiful privilege to be able to push a reset button in your life, to reboot, to reorganize it, to steer it to an entirely new course? This is a blessing that exceeds what I ever asked or hoped for.
So where has this line of thinking led me in my moment of transition? I put my feet up while I write this and enjoy a celebratory drink.