Moving abroad is equal parts exhilarating and terrifying. You’re leaving behind family and friends to start a new adventure. – Alexandra Talty
I’m feeling a bit sad. I’m driving home after a work event social event, where I just let the cat out of the bag to my coworkers that I’m moving to China for 6 months. I have the windows down and music loud as I drive down a road along the world’s 4th largest freshwater lake. It’s a beautiful 68°F (19°C) night with no humidity. I will greatly miss this. I love the cool nights and beautiful sunny days, often sailing on that lake. I reflect on what it will soon be like. Nearly 90° in early June, very high humidity, sweating my ass off. And even hotter in July and August. I’m not looking forward to that. I will miss the people that I’ve come to know here. The comfort in the familiar. My home sweet home.
There will likely be new friendships to be forged in this new land, completely on the other side of the world. But that is still unknown. A foreign people, a foreign land. Will they have the same things in common as I do? Or will they find me so foreign and unrelatable? Will they make me feel at home? Or will I feel truly a foreigner? I like to think that I’m a relatively easy to talk to guy, and might not have a very difficult time befriending my new coworkers and maybe even some neighbors.
But what about my daughter?
Will my daughter be so homesick that she cannot stand to stay there another moment? Or will she embrace the new experience, and feel a part of the new culture and want to learn much more that can be learned in a book? Am I doing the wrong thing by taking her away from her homeland, away from her mother, away from her friends, away from everything that she knows and loves? Or will this be a new experience for her to be cherished and the rest of her life? Will she learn much more than what can be learned from living in the same place her entire life, or in a book? What will this new place teach us about ourselves? What will we learn about these people that are not like us? Are they the just like us but just living in a different place? Will they make us feel like we are foreigners? Or will they make us feel like we are at home in a different country? Only time will tell. And I look forward to the opportunity of learning that answer.
While learning that answer, I will still miss what we have at home. Home is comfort. One cannot have comfort in what is disruptive. Disruption may be necessary to truly learn one’s self. Maybe what we have is not truly comforting. Maybe what we need is this discomfort, this disruption, this vast difference from what we currently know. Maybe we will learn much more about ourselves then we will just living at what we call home. How we know the answer to these things without disrupting our lives? Maybe this is what we truly need? Yes, it is scary. Exhilarating and terrifying.
I’m taking my 13 year old daughter away from her mother. A mother that she sees nearly every day of her life, even with our 50/50 custody arrangement. A mother’s love and relationship is important (as is the father’s). Will there be resentment, from mother or from daughter, for separating them? Will our daughter grow and flourish away from her mother? Will this be a gigantic learning experience for her? Yes, it is only 3 months. Anyone should be able to tolerate most anything for 3 months. While our daughter is only 13 years old, she’s experienced visiting at least five other countries in her lifetime. Just two years ago we visited India, and I believe that it was a very positive experience for her. I cannot help but think that this China experience will be beneficial to her. She will understand how other people live in a vastly different place. A place that is a full hemisphere away from us. A country that speaks a completely different language and may not understand us at all. We will struggle with simple daily tasks. But I think it will only make us stronger.
How will we know if we don’t try it? Maybe my daughter will hate me. Maybe she will love this experience and cherish it. Maybe she will grow and be a much bigger person because of it. But as a father, how will know that? When will I know that?
Her mother struggled for months with the decision to let her go. At times, the answer was yes. At times it was a stern no. And it was understandable. To take her only daughter away, to the opposite side of the earth, where a simple phone call “mommy, I want to come home” isn’t as easy as getting one of these calls from a local girls’ sleepover. (Although, our daughter has never called home homesick.) It was good to hear about the going away party that she hosted for our daughter and her friends. Maybe they are both ready for this new adventure too. T minus 2 days.