I walked with a friend today.
Now before you give a little sigh and think, wow, Laurie, good for you, this event was not as small as it sounds.
Yes, I walked with a friend today, but this is no ordinary friend. Kristen has been in my life for 14 years. We have always been walking buddies. Since before her youngest could walk, and before my youngest was even born. All year round, through blazing heat and blizzard conditions Kristen and I were out there. We started out pushing strollers, then phased into running behind yelling kids on bikes, and have now graduated to just the two of us. We were dedicated through all those years and as a result, formed a lasting friendship that has been through most of life’s stages.
When our family moved abroad, Kristen made the commitment to send me a message every day. For four years she kept her word and did just that. She was one of my few constants in our ever-changing expat world, and she will never know how much that commitment meant to me.
However, all that being said, there is only so much that can be conveyed in a text. We certainly kept each other apprised of our daily lives, but missed our long walks and the conversations that flowed out of them. I always said jokingly that Kristen was forced to listen to my life’s drama for the 50-minutes it took us to walk around our subdivision. I mean, she couldn’t bail halfway through the walk, right? Where would she go? But this is how our friendship developed and deepened, by being involved deeply in the everyday aspects of each other’s lives. And hey, if she’s still sticking around after all those years of my craziness, I’m not worried about her going anywhere now.
I have had more than a few moments like this since we’ve repatriated. Moments that would not have been significant if we’d never moved overseas. I walked through Target yesterday and just took a moment to take in the blessing I was given having the opportunity to walk through the plethora of seasonal decorations, and shelves packed to the rim with more things than anyone could ever need. Want something simple like ketchup? There are over 10 different brands to choose from!
Remember when we first arrived in Shanghai and felt a huge sense of accomplishment by finding one bottle of ranch dressing?
Yes, Target is pure gold! On top of everything else, if your heart desires you can even treat yourself to a Starbucks when you’re done shopping.But you know what? If we never left home, this trip would have just been part of a routine Monday afternoon.
That being said, we did leave home. We made the leap and moved overseas for 4 years. Making this kind of move in your life will change you. There’s just no way around it. I’ll be honest, as much as I was ready to return home, I was also worried that my new life experiences would have inherently changed me so much that I would no longer feel comfortable in my own land. I heard so many stories about expats repatriating and being miserable because they were no longer able to find their place. This was a real concern for me. What if living back home wasn’t as great as I remembered it to be?
Here’s where I’ve pleasantly surprised myself. The opposite has happened. I have loved every minute. I find that I appreciate everything at home so much more than I ever did before. The fresh air, drinking water from the kitchen sink, seeing family members in person, not just over Facetime, long walks with dear friends, and yes, even Target.
family time ❤️
I’ve come back a changed person, it’s true. But what I’ve found is the change has allowed me to appreciate all we have in the U.S. so much more. We are a blessed country of so much beauty and possibility. Certainly, way more than we could ever deserve.
Every morning I find myself drinking in the crisp, clean air, taking deep cleansing breaths as soon as I step outside. I stand in grocery store aisles in awe of all the choices (this did take some time to get used to again-it’s overwhelming!). I drive down the street with a grateful heart at the beauty of the trees and nature around me. It truly is an incredible feeling.
Now don’t get me wrong, I loved every minute of our lives abroad. We had opportunities well beyond anything we could have imagined. It was incredible and a huge blessing for us all. We would do it again (and might someday). If you’ve followed our journey, you know we took full advantage of every opportunity. We traveled, we explored, we ate, we laughed, we cried, and we also made very special friendships. It was such a special time.
But through it all, while making the most of it, I never felt completely settled. It was home, but it wasn’t. We could buy food we were familiar with, but not exactly what we were used to. We developed routines, but they would change rather quickly due to travel or school schedules. I had help cleaning the house and cooking but struggled with not feeling as if I was contributing enough. You see, life abroad was wonderful, but with it came a consistent paradox of emotions.
Since we have returned, I’ve gone back to being a taxi driver, full-time cook, maid (ugh, scrubbing toilets is still the worst), and personal shopper. Sure, all those things aren’t the most fun, but I have once again found my routine and sense of purpose. To me, that’s a big part of what fills me up and makes me whole.
So yes, today I simply went for a walk with a friend, and it was glorious. I loved living abroad and am beyond grateful for the opportunity God gave us to do so. But I am also incredibly happy to be home. To once again settle down and rediscover our new normal.
We are so blessed, and it feels good to finally be “home”.