On our first date, before the waiter spilled a beer on Peter, we spoke about our dreams. Our conversation exploded into all our hopes for traveling the world.
Climbing Kilimanjaro (✓),
sailing to Australia, rock-climbing Thailand (✓), trekking the Himalayas, visiting Machu Picchu(✓)…We wanted to travel to more international locations than we had time to talk.
The travel conversations evolved into a greater shared goal of settling down in one place and fully experiencing what it means to live abroad. In our combined adventures, the only negative was always being a tourist. We craved a deeper and more enriching experience.
Our adult lives took off and it seemed as if one thing (wedding) or another (new jobs, having a baby) was always taking precedence over the push to move abroad. After I stopped working full-time and our daughter turned two, the space arrived to chase the dream.
It’s been about a year in the making but I am excited to say, the dream was caught.
My husband accepted an opportunity to work for his company in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. The news has unraveled slowly as we have been waiting weeks for the, “book your plane ticket,” phone call. Too scared to tell anyone because we weren’t sure if it was going to work out. The slow unraveling has made it all seem like someone else’s story. But a few days ago, Peter received the phone call and was asked to book his ticket. So now it’s officially our story, Peter will leave a week after we return from Japan, Sage and I will follow a few weeks later. It’s finally real and a new flood of emotions has completely knocked me off my feet.
Since hearing the news, a hollow feeling has settled in my belly. It’s the oddest combination of excitement and dread. I have rarely felt this empty, so it’s difficult to know if the feeling is excitement or anxiety. I am trying, so very hard, to stay in the moment and be present on this beautifully relaxing vacation I am enjoying with my daughter (we are in the midst of a three week work trip to support my husband in Okinawa, Japan) but the quieter and slower the days, the more active and unsettled my mind becomes.
Mostly I am extremely excited. Think of all the new places we will explore as a family! All the new international families we will meet! And have you seen Yas Waterworld?! AND We are 3-5 hours by plane to some of the coolest places on earth.
But sometimes I am on the verge of tears. Over things like, “can I bring all of my daughter’s books?” or “do they have ingredients for the Paleo recipes I love?” “What if it is actually too hot to go outside? What happens if they don’t appreciate my monkey climbing, barefoot, wiggly, loud, extremely friendly daughter? What if I hate the preschool? What if I don’t want to cover up? What if I forget and want to hold Peter’s hand in public? Is that rule even for real? What if I hate it? What happens if I miss my Mom too much? How much am I going to miss those impromptu dinners at my sister’s house? Can I still talk to my girlfriends, my lifelines, every day if we are twelve hours apart? Google maps says that the moms’ group I found can only be accessed via car. Can I even drive there? Why doesn’t Google maps show public transportation? Do they have public transportation? Will the Moms there like me? Will I like them? Do I have to wear make-up? Are my clothes nice enough? If kids can’t go outside and play in the heat, do they just watch TV all day? When does it stop being so hot?
My quiet brain has turned into what I can only compare to a Vegas slot machine. Different combinations of worries, all mismatched and rarely aligning. Lights flickering, noises buzzing, dinging with different ideas and imagined scenarios.
After the questions portion of the program, I move on to judging myself. People in my neighborhood in Southern California haven’t seen their families in 20 years because they left Mexico at 18 years old to work in the U.S. When they arrived they had no money, spoke no english, and are currently sharing a two bedroom apartment with three other families. Liking their preschool? Missing their mothers? Please girl. Get some perspective.
So a more accurate analogy is that my brain is like a Vegas slot-machine and a ping pong match between first world worries and self judgement for having the worries in the first place.
And to be perfectly honest, I am still not sure why all these emotions are even surfacing. This is something I want. This is something I wanted for a long time. I live by the principal that if it scares me, I need to do it. To live a full and complete life I need to experience things that make me uncomfortable, things that will stretch me. I don’t want to die with an, “I wish I had…“ I want to lean into discomfort and allow myself to experience all the emotions that ensue.
So that’s what I am doing. I am breathing deeply, accepting whatever my slot machine, ping pong brain delivers, letting the tears flow if they must. Being open about how painful it will be when I hug my girlfriends goodbye… But I will try to stop judging myself. I will make friends, I will find food I love, I will figure out the heat, I will make-out with my husband in our apartment. Lucky me, I have girlfriends that will talk to me everyday. And guess what? My Mom is great at Facetime. I will find shoulder covering clothes I like. I will meet incredible people who will expand and challenge my views of cultures and the world. I will dive right in to the sea of discomfort and watch myself grow… watch our daughter grow…watch our life change..and embrace it all, full on.