On the Other Side

About two weeks ago, I was given the rare opportunity to visit my family back in Southern California. My talented Aussie husband was being sent there by his company to do a 4 day stint for a client and after finding out that he could extend his trip by two days, I decided to head out as well. (Thanks hubby!)

It was a wonderful trip and well worth the effort since the aim of my last-minute travel plans was to surprise my sister who has just recently started foster-adopting two little girls. I was absolutely delighted to have been able to meet my new nieces and spend quality time getting to know them while catching up with my sister and brother-in-law at their home.

All in all, it was a good visit. But on the plane back to Sydney, I noticed that something in me had shifted. What had changed? Was I not sad to be leaving loved ones again? I cried and whimpered like a baby the moment I had to say goodbye to my family on that last evening. But once that moment had passed and I realized it was just me and Matt homeward-bound toward an oversized island thousands of miles away from California, I knew something was different.

Maybe it was the rush hour traffic. Maybe it was the amount of food served up at restaurants. Maybe it was the unbelievably great selection and affordable price of shoes and clothing. Maybe it was the fact that I had access to real Mexican food and pomegranate blueberry tea lattes once again. I don’t know which of these things triggered it but I do know that after the initial hype of all my beloved rediscoveries, I started to miss something. I missed Australia.

Recently, a girlfriend of mine wrote me a letter sharing that her “soul needs some total escape of life.” When I read that line, I realized that’s exactly what Australia has become for me. Only now it’s become quite a permanent escape. I’m here by choice, for good and I’m actually quite thrilled about it. But I didn’t fully realize this until my most recent return to the US.

Something about California was almost uncomfortably familiar. Sure things were exciting and different–people change, freeways change, neighbourhoods and shopping centers change, but I discovered that most things about the culture, the lifestyle, and the values were very much the same. And even though it’s only been four years since my uprooting from that place, a strange sort of thick pressure lingered in the air and it made me uneasy. It was as though I knew that this place was no longer “home” to me, and I was excited at the thought of returning to Sydney with Matt once again.

Moving away from what’s familiar isn’t for everyone. It’s hard to stay open to change. It’s hard to uproot yourself from things and places and people you know. It’s unpredictable and it’s absolutely terrifying. But in the end, it just might be the thing that leads you to letting go.  This was the case for me. I didn’t want to let go of so many things in Southern California–my close-knit circle of friends, my family, my boyfriend at the time, my lifestyle–everything was secure. I had a routine. I had my own pace. I was used to it. But then God created an opportunity for me to leave it all behind. And though it started off as a temporary change, it slowly transitioned into a permanent one.

I have a sneaking suspicion that certain loved ones of mine have a hard time seeing this side of me or fully understanding or accepting it. Why? Because it’s completely new–it’s a side that has developed and changed and grown without their opinions, without their influence, and without their approval. But instead of congratulating me for having the guts to keep going and encouraging me to pursue this path and this journey that I’m on, they’d rather push me to return to my former life, to squeeze my husband into the pattern of it, and to be who they want us to be and live the way they want us to live. And the more they ask, the more resolute I become in establishing my life abroad.

We couldn’t get to the airport any faster. Not only was the Friday night traffic horrific, but it also started to rain which we all know creates chaos for Southern California drivers. Finally we pulled up to the curb just outside of our check-in baggage area, and it was time to say farewell. Tears were shed, hugs and kisses exchanged, and then, beneath the rainclouds of that smog-filled sky, we waved goodbye.


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