I’ve been home for six weeks this Wednesday, while I love so many parts of being home, I find myself randomly crying or needing to just stop, sit, drink a coffee/water/tea, and recollect myself, a travel-habit I picked up one day last March when I found myself lost in Luzern. I feel like everyday is a delicate balance of productively piecing my life back together, and trying not to lose my mind. I am not depressed; I’ve faced the valleys of depression before and am well-acquainted enough with that darkness. I’m not even an anxious nervous wreck, though I do have moments of fear or panic. But I am going through something, the feelings of which are not quite placeable. I can relate some experiences to other previous ones, but none of them quite fit anymore.
The anxiety and the nervousness only amplifies itself when I realize not everyone quite empathizes or understands both the losses and the gains I’ve had in the past year. I am somehow not the same woman I was before I left. I am quite different. The way I think is different, the way I lean on others, the way I want to help others, the way I want to live life is drastically different than before, and I’m adapting. I’m attempting to make room for those changes in my life, and trying to make space for my friends and family to see and accept that part of me.
The last several months I was in Korea, I taught at a Christian school. It was a missional school, too, with missionary purposes. No, I didn’t have to raise support, but everyday was still a faith-walk. The last five months, we were a brand-new school as well. We built up a science lab, a library, a cafeteria, a curriculum, two soccer teams. I foolishly chose to live an hour away from the campus (many decisions were made in November, and some without full knowledge of the facts) and the public transport of three busses and one train was often times life-draining. I was often overwhelmed with the daily task list, the commute, the rhythms of life abroad and in a new school. But through it all, I was immersed in a community where we talked about God’s presence in our life everyday, every hour. This fact was not new to me, but for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by people who knew it, embraced it, and lived it out everyday.
They showed me how to live like that too.
There is no way I could have survived without their guidance, prayers, faith, testimonies, and love.
Even my fellow expats who were not Christians who essentially became my group of girls — who supported my pizza/tagine/wine habits — understood my dependence on Christ. They too, were fellow expats, and to live a life abroad requires a measure of faith. They know how terrifying the immigration office can be; they know how visa sponsors can seem somewhat irrational and stubborn at times. They know what it’s like to be a square in a world of circles and what its like to be forced into pretending to be a circle for the sake of niceties. For the first time in my life with a group of non-believers, there was no judgment. There was no doubting of my intelligence, no questioning that I was somehow brainwashed as a child. They believed and saw my faith was rational when necessary as well as emotional. They saw that it made sense.
Very recently, I’ve agreed to take a job in a new city in Texas, near my hometown. I haven’t lived in Austin for 12 years, but here I am. I used to live in Fort Worth, and have most of my friends there. Friends that became my family in ways my own family cannot quite replicate. It’s a new adventure, and even though I love new adventures, I wasn’t ready for the last one to end, and I always kind of planned on going “home” to Fort Worth when it was over. I grieved leaving Texas a year ago, and I grieve leaving Korea now, but I find myself grieving leaving Fort Worth all over again.
I called my friend and colleague when I was first offered the job, and she said, “If we accept the opportunities God places before us, we let God grow us and stretch us in ways we never imagined.” I wasn’t crazy about the opportunity before me, and it’s a good opportunity. But my grief is overshadowing my outlook, I recognize. In the days after we received our deportation orders, I listened to a sermon from my old church in Fort Worth, and the pastor said, “Sometimes, God ruins our plans to make way for a greater blessing in our lives.” It’s a hard truth to hear when you’re in the mess of the ruined plans.
Years ago, in the midst of a breakup, a friend of mine wisely comforted me by saying, “Grieve. Cry it out. And then continue to move forward.” It was during that breakup that I had a dream one night, that years from then, I was living in Korea, very single, and very much in love with my life. I awoke and could not fathom the idea of being in love with my life without that relationship. Slowly, God made it bearable, and then enjoyable, and then unimaginable that I could have wanted that relationship in the first place. Before I left last year, I remembered this dream, and I recognized that God ruined my plans to marry that man only to allow me to experience the blessing of my time in Korea.
So moving forward; this is what I’m doing everyday. And in some ways, people try to comfort me by talking about the wonderful things in Austin, which, deep-down, I truly cannot wait to discover and rediscover, but like an old flame, Seoul is impossible to remove from my head and my heart. She is a multi-faceted siren of a city, and I cannot replace her. But when we’ve truly loved like that, there’s never replacing that former lover, is there? There’s only gleaning from their lessons, being grateful for them, and moving forward.