Reflections on Two Years of Change

Yeah, we see emus now...
Yeah, we see emus now…

On Saturday, the 21st of September, we hit the two-year mark for life in Australia. That means—I did it! When I left, my goal was to survive two years without crying uncontrollably on the way to catch a flight back to Colorado, saying “What was I thinking?!” I didn’t do that! I have lived outside Colorado, in another country, in another hemisphere with my family for TWO FULL YEARS! Yay! Go Me! Yes, I know, so have thousands of other people, without quite so much drama, but I am just enjoying my success here, not focusing on how insignificant in may be in the grand scheme of things.

Here we are! September 2011

I’d like to take a few minutes to reflect on life over the past two years. Packing up my house, selling all of our furniture, saying good-bye to everyone I’d ever known and transporting my two babies along with my rock of a husband to the other side of the world was the most terrifying thing I have ever done. I actually don’t recommend it. Live outside of your home state first. Move to another part of the country. Test those waters before changing everything. But, this is the way I did it.
It has definitely not been without some trauma. I have found myself meaner and darker than I used to be; somewhere along the way I lost my “happy.” I’ve done some things and acted in ways that I am not proud of, that I will have to carry with me in my heart forever. I’ve hurt myself and I’ve hurt those I love the most in this world.
But, thankfully, I have dear friends and family, and even when they are on the far side of the world, they remain a solid support system. They helped me realize something was wrong, and once I absorbed that I truly missed my “happy” and that I wasn’t handling all this change too well on my own, I am grateful that I had the wherewithal to seek professional assistance. I never thought I’d need professional help to deal with something as common and ordinary as moving, but I did. And I’m thankful that I got it, because I got my “happy” back and am coping much better.
That’s not to say that I’m no longer a cocky American who bemoans how things are different here and over there they were better. I still am. It’s not to say I’m perfectly content with our situation and am happy to stay at this very address for the rest of my life. I may be. I don’t know yet. How can I predict how I will feel next year, in five years, in 20 years, when I have seen so much change in myself and in my perspectives in just two?
I miss my family, and Colorado, and friends, and my former conveniences a LOT. Still. My youngest son has now lived the majority of his life in Australia and I still have heart strings tied to another continent. I still can’t understand complete conversations that go on around me, or ones that I am directly involved in. I still feel like a misfit many days, and he is a true local with the accent to prove it. How can that be? It feels odd.
However, overall, I am so grateful for this experience and so proud of myself and how I have grown stronger and better in the past two years. I really have. I believe I left Colorado a shy, judgmental, insecure girl with a limited perspective on the world and now I have changed into an outgoing, more tolerant, more confident girl with a broader, wiser perspective.
I didn’t necessarily change willingly, but more so by necessity combined with circumstance. I used to think I needed quiet time and enjoyed being alone. I still do. But I now know that too much alone time is not good for me. I have learned I thrive on socialization and connections with other people. If I remained shy through a move like this, I’d be alone and isolated WAY too much. So, I’m not shy anymore. Simple as that.
I judged people way too much before. I got angry and annoyed with other drivers on the road, with other people’s parenting choices, lifestyle choices; you name it, I judged it. Now, I’m not suddenly perfect by any stretch of the imagination. I can still be a royal pain and I’m probably the least tolerant with my three boys, the ones who I should be the most tolerant with.
It’s just now I understand that the person struggling on the road may be learning to drive on the left side for the first time, trying to find her way around in another country. Maybe her kid is sick and she hasn’t slept in a few days and she’s scared and lonely. Why honk? Why tailgate? What does that really accomplish?
I have no right to judge another parent, another woman, another human being, because I know that I have made some horrible choices myself and acted in terrible ways, but when it all comes down to it, I’ve always been honestly doing the best I could in that moment. I want acceptance from my loved ones and those around me; so naturally, others should get that same acceptance, no matter the circumstances.
My world perspective has changed in profound ways. I always knew the U.S. wasn’t “perfect.” I knew Americans were the only people that regularly used clothes dryers, had more than one car (at least one of those an SUV) and were more into material things than many other people in other cultures. But I still honestly believed we had the best lifestyle in the world. I realize now that Australians also feel they have the best lifestyle in the world, and am sure many other cultures do, too. And that really, none of them do. There is no “best.” There is no “perfect.” There are only differences. And the differences are what make our world beautiful and interesting and what make every day a learning experience.
Take the recent floods in Boulder as an example. Watching that devastation from afar made me so sad. Selfishly, I was glad we weren’t there for it, which is a horrible thing to think. But seeing familiar roads and neighborhoods under water was heart wrenching and hard to fathom in my dry state if I wasn’t seeing the evidence in photos and video.
However, when you put it into perspective, it’s not that bad. The people displaced by those floods likely have another safe structure to live in, even temporarily, and will have the assistance they need to rebuild. I recently read about a flood in Taiwan not too long ago and the people that lost their homes had to live in an abandoned elementary school for SEVEN YEARS. The building had no showers! Something like that could never happen in the U.S., especially not in the Boulder area. There’s just too much wealth there compared to other parts of the world. As my friend pointed out—a first world natural disaster is much different than a third world disaster.
That perspective helps me take difficulties in stride more, to be more thankful for the blessings I have and the circumstances I was born into. But it also makes me not want to belittle the tragedy that those people are experiencing. We donated to the relief efforts. I realize that it’s all relative: just as I am making a big deal of a move that may not be a big deal to many people, it is a big deal to me and that’s ok. It’s also ok that the flood tragedy is a big deal to the people experiencing while it may not be to a 3rd world citizen observing it. It’s all relative and what feels like a disaster is a disaster.
This widened perspective can also make me angry. Hearing about two more mass shootings in the U.S. in the past week makes my blood boil. When are Americans going to decide that enough is enough? When are people going to realize that owning a shotgun and a pistol is enough, and that not everyone needs access to an assault rifle?
I was commenting to a friend today that I really like the rule here that all pools have to be fenced with a latch too high for a child to reach. She explained the law more fully to me and all the regulations attached to it. I said it makes me much more comfortable with my children around pools, because in the U.S., there were several times where they literally could have just fallen right into a friend or family member’s pool. She told me that’s why the laws were enacted—to try and stop the number of children drowning in family pools. Well, that makes sense! I thought to myself—Australians take action! When there’s a problem, they put regulations in place to alleviate the magnitude of the problem, not solve in completely, but save a few lives at least. Why won’t Americans do that? I never had that perspective before.
That said, the roads here need some serious attention and I wish action would be taken on them. They are too congested, narrow and unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. We try to walk and bike many places but the conditions of sidewalks when they even are available is deplorable and the willingness of drivers to look out for those on foot and yield is as well. It’s a terrifying experience! (Sorry—just a side rant that needed to come out.)
So, there we go. I’ve changed. A lot. I text now. I’m addicted to technology like crazy. I write for myself professionally. I’ve joined a training program to become a children’s yoga instructor. I have career aspirations now that I never would have thought of two years ago. I run now. I’ve dropped a clothing size. I haven’t gone on a hike in the mountains, been above treeline, or skied in more than two years. How could I have ever thought that possible? I’ve seen an emu in the wild and I go to the beach for the day, sometimes just for the morning. The contents of my wallet are completely different than they were two years ago. I use a different currency—my kids don’t know what I mean when I say to measure something the size of a quarter. So many changes! Wow!

My babies
Just another day at the beach….

Can you believe I am still learning new words? I learned two just this last week. Tiggy is the word here for the game of tag; don’t ask me why. And snapping your fingers is called clicking. You know who taught me that one? My son. He came up to me all excited: “Mommy! I just clicked!” I gave Steve a blank look and then he told me what Drew meant.
Our lifestyle has changed a lot. We both work less and are home more. I spend a lot more time in the kitchen. I pursue my own ideas more now (as in writing, a yoga training, running), because I don’t have a career that’s engaging my brain and my brain was restless until my counselor helped me give shape to my ideas. We travel less often, but when we do, it’s for longer periods of time. We spend all of our weekends together as a family because neither of us ever has to work on the weekend. But we are always at home on the weekends, because we spend our money on longer trips rather than frequent long weekends away. We haven’t replaced all of our camping equipment, because we are still replacing household basics, so it costs more to go away for the weekend. We are saving money monthly now.

Look at Mommy the runner–who would have thought?!

Are all of these changes related to moving? Probably not. Would any of these changes have happened if we had stayed put? Likely, some of them would have. But however I look at it, a LOT has changed in the past two years, including our hemisphere and that’s a big deal. To me. It’s all relative, and for today, I’m relatively proud!

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