Sunday, October 25, 2015

7 Days Left - Lessons I've Learned as an Expat

Mackinac Island, MI

For the first eighteen years of my life, I didn't move.  I lived in the same house, on the same street, in the same city.  The biggest change I can remember is changing schools in 2nd grade.  But that wasn't really a big change because I changed from attending the public school down the street to going to our small church school where all my friends already went.  

I don't see this as a bad thing.  In fact, I actually see all that stability as a foundation.  I had a sense of knowing who I am so that I can move all over the place now.  Home is still there, I can go back if I need to.  

My children don't have that same sense of stability.  First, they were moved all over the state of Michigan, then we began the overseas thing.  They really understand the first day of school in a completely new place with no friends.  The first few countries they had each other.  Then the boy went off to college and it was just the two girls.  This year the older girl went to college and we moved countries.  This left the younger daughter alone, to begin a new school, by herself.    

New and alone are two difficult words for someone of any age.  I've watched my daughter as she adjusts to this new place.  I'm proud of her.  She's worked hard at finding new friends and being involved in activities.  She's done well at what I talked about in a previous post -- putting yourself out there as a new person.  But what I've noticed is that after week one or maybe even week two, people stop looking at you as the new person.  They stop inviting you to things and stop making that little bit of extra effort.  It takes a long time to stop being the new person and feel like where you now are is comfortable and fits.  

In January or in six months, she will no longer be the new person and someone else will come along that needs all that love, encouragement and inclusion as they try to fit into their new surroundings.  And she will be the one to extend that invitation.  More often in life, we are the old one and someone else new comes along.  Remember what it feels like to be new.  How good it felt when someone asked you to lunch or helped you find something.  The gesture can often be so small that it seems trivial to the one giving it, but to the new person, even the smallest things are the biggest gifts.

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