I’m standing on my balcony on the other side of the world. My 7 month old, Jubilee, is sitting on her daddy’s lap and I am gazing out into the horizon, thinking of home.
These warm summer nights call my soul home to Georgia, and I let my eyes close and my lungs fill with the twilight breeze and for a moment I can feel my heart beat back there, where dirt roads wind and pine trees reach for the sky.
If I were home tonight I would stand out in my mama’s yard, toes in the grass, listening to the crickets singing. Tomorrow I would be sitting on my grandma’s screen porch, sipping coffee and talking about the Wednesday night supper at her church and what songs the choir sang last Sunday. I would be laying in bed with my sister, talking about boys and telling secrets.
If I were home tonight I would be gathered around the table with the ones that I love the most. I would be eating and drinking and laughing until my sides hurt because that’s what we do. It would be homemade strawberry pie and a big pot of chili. Or cornbread and crock pot mac and cheese and pork loin and sweet tea. I would be listening to my daddy give us all history lessons about the civil war and the best way to cook collard greens.
It would be days spent swimming in the pond and making a slip and slide with my cousins. Nights spent at baseball games and livestock shows and school plays.
I have been in a process of thrashing about lately. It’s a bit of groping in the darkness, a tearing apart of self.
Moving to another continent gives you two different identities. There is the part of you that knows home is the red Georgia clay and a big glass of sweet tea and crickets singing in the night. And then there is the other part of you that lives in a home every day where you greet everyone with a kiss and you eat fried plantains with supper and you don’t recognize all of the foods in the market. She is the part of you that knows about visas and residency in another country and what it means to wait in line at immigration all day long. She is the you that understands the bus system and memorizes new words in her free time and watches people celebrate Carnaval in the streets every Sunday in February.
There is one side of me that identifies with the woods and banjo music and family reunions at the Methodist campground. There is another part of me that identifies with street vendors and smog and nights that are never silent and passports filled with stamps and living in hostels and churches and apartments with other families.
I have been thrashing, fighting, gasping for air. I have been enlightened, thankful, experience filled. I have been homesick, questioning, trying to fit in.
During the past year of living abroad, everything I have ever believed has been brought into questioning. Sometimes I have the tendency to try to cover it all up and smooth it all over and make it look pretty, when in reality, it’s just plain hard. Lately I’ve begun to realize that it’s OK. It’s OK to be upset. It’s OK not to like it when ten different people on the street touch your baby and try to hold her. It’s OK to be annoyed with the locals fuss at me for not sharing their same superstitions about giving babies tea and chicken livers. It’s OK to feel lost, lonely, searching.
It’s OK to find myself in all of this craziness of living abroad. It’s actually more than OK. It’s incredibly important.
I am not the same person that I was when I lived in the states. My experiences have changed me, and I will be changed forever. Someday, when I’m back in the states, I will still be changed. Life has given me a whole new set of experiences and memories to shape and form my version of normal. And I am learning to be thankful. Thankful because this has made me question everything about myself from my personality to my beliefs on religion to my commitment to my patience to my sanity! There are so many things about myself that I never questioned before, and because of that, I never knew.
I know myself so much better now, and I also give myself permission every single day to feel. To get upset. To accept the fact that I am going to struggle sometimes.
I woke up this morning and looked at myself in the mirror. I stood face to face with a new me. Someone who has lived in Peru for 13 months and survived. Someone who has learned so much more of the language than I ever thought possible. Someone who communicates all day every day in a foreign tongue. Someone who is raising a 7 month old thousands of miles away from friends and family. Someone who has learned to rely on her husband and his friendship in the most powerful way. Someone who has learned to accept help. Someone who is growing in the midst of all of this thrashing about.
How about you? Have you been thrashing about in secret? I encourage you to own it. There is nothing to be ashamed of, no part of you that is “too much.”
This journey is yours. This is your story of living abroad, learning to thrive in a new culture, growing spiritually and emotionally in ways that you never imagined. And all of this thrashing around and sometimes even thriving as an expat, well, we are in this together, sister!
I’m in your corner and cheering for you with a whole lot of support and a whole lot of love!