Turning to Face the Strange

b031b9c52b45607e8e3d0979812803caSitting with a good friend who is soon to be repatriating, we zipped our way up and down the standardized questions:

Are you going back to the house you lived in before?

Have you sorted out school for the kids?

How do you feel?

As we delicately wove our way through the challenges churned up by any move, we talked a little about her family’s willingness to test the repatriation waters to see if the temperature was right before committing to anything permanent.

You know those Homer Simpson “Doh!” moments when the light bulb clicks on above your head? I had one. Because in her statement, bold as brass, was the truth about the greatest gift I’ve been given on this topsy turvy expat journey: the willingness to turn and face the strange.

Seven and a half years ago when my husband brought up the prospect of leaving my beloved NYC, I was more than slightly terrified. The fear stemmed from a multitude of reasons, but the biggest was questioning my ability to successfully move myself, my little nuclear family and our belongings 7,000 miles away from family, friends and incredible take-out options. The plan was to stay out in the field for two to three years. Two turned to four, then six, now here we are going into our eighth.

Yes, it's just temporary, don't worry
Yes, it’s just temporary, don’t worry

Even though moving again is a near certainty, even though I know it will be one giant pain in the ass, I now no longer doubt I can do it. The time we’ve spent abroad has taught me that nothing is permanent, and I mean that in the best way possible.

I’ve loosened up. Sure, I still like a good spread sheet. I still like plans A through F lined up like ducks in a row. But our time as expats has taught me that if one way doesn’t work, there’s sure to be another one that does. I’ve learned to accept the change, to face the strange.

As my own life get ever so closer to words like pension and retirement and further from ones like boozy brunch, we will be faced with certain decisions. Seven years ago, those decisions may well have paralyzed me into indecision. Even three years ago. But the longer we’re out, the more clear it becomes that everything doesn’t need to be clear, not immediately anyway.

I wouldn’t call our life nomadic, we are rooted to a large degree, but living outside our comfort zone has, strangely, only widened the zone in which I feel comfortable. I think most expats feel the same.

This is the gift that moving has taught me: nothing has to be forever. Change is not to be feared. If it isn’t working, we’ll pick up and find a way to make it work. I’m not saying it won’t be uncomfortable or scary. It will almost certainly be a huge pain in the ass. I mean I don’t feel like we have to lock ourselves into a decision that is forever and ever until death do us part.

0e7400575ac0be32424adcf87bc39962On the surface it doesn’t sound like a big thing, but stop for a minute and think about all the things fear of change may have stopped you from doing–quitting a dead-end job, leaving a deader-ender relationship, moving, even trying a new dish at your favorite restaurant. Our time as expats has taught me the importance of flexibility as well as the courage to face change.

When our second son was born, we named him Reed. One of the very first comments someone made to me was how wonderful it was to be named after a part of nature which has the ability to bend and sway with whichever way the wind changes, but never lose its strength. It’s a characteristic I think many expats discover on their journeys, and one in which I am only now truly learning to appreciate.

Here’s hoping it’s one I can remember for a long time to come. Maybe even over a boozy brunch in a place I never thought I’d find myself.


4 thoughts on “Turning to Face the Strange

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  1. I’ve definitely found myself more flexible over the years, mostly because of my children and the need to be loose in my schedule. I still have trouble with those major changes though. Something to think about for sure.


    1. I did wonder if some of it was getting older, and I do think that plays a part in it But I also think the life we are living right now, with people coming and going and finding ways to keep them in your life makes you realize that change is ok, you just have to embrace it.


  2. It’s taken me 51 years to get to this point, but it’s a lot easier for me now to recognize that things generally turn out pretty well even when I’m not completely on top of everything. It’s a good place to be in.


    1. I think you’re right. I think when we trust (generally speaking) that things will work out, they do. I think for me the biggest breath of relief has come from not having to make decisions that are IF/ONLY. I’m not sure if it is solely down the lifestyle we’ve been living, age, or as I suspect, a combination of both.

      Liked by 1 person

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D.E. Haggerty

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