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Time stands still for nobody: how visiting home can teach us about change

Time stands still for nobody: how visiting home can teach us about change

 

Living abroad can transform us in ways that are only noticeable when we visit home. Residing in a different culture as an expat can change us.  “Going home” can feel different or as if we no longer fit in like we used to.  Why does this happen?

Visiting home while living abroad is always exciting. Seeing special people is always a top item on the to-do list. Going to favorite restaurants, visiting certain shops or neighborhoods, eating iconic foods, and enjoying a shared culture and language are also anticipated pleasure points on our visits home. We arrive, we take in, we enjoy and we feel like we belong again. And then....

Home may have changed while you were gone

Often times we find that some stores or restaurants that we once loved have closed. Or, perhaps some of our favorite foods have been discontinued at the grocery store. Yet, every so often it feels like something is missing but we can’t put our finger on it. It isn’t anything concrete. It’s just that some things aren’t as we remember them.

Part of this feeling may stem from romanticizing home in a way that made it more than it actually was. We tend to paint our memories with more color that what was actually present. This can create a letdown feeling when we visit home because things just don’t quite live up to how we remembered them.

Then, there are actual things that may have changed since we left. Changes could have occurred in local or federal law, there could be modifications in social norms, or the members of our extended family may have changed due to death or divorce. Time marches on for everybody and everything. Our minds take a photograph of our last visit and keep that as a reference until we return and make new mental photos. It’s only normal that we find differences between the new and old pictures.

We may have changed while we were gone

The changes within ourselves are perhaps more significant than the changes that happened at home while we were gone. Our children have grown and developed. They most likely have been heavily influenced by the culture that they are being raised in because they have a very short personal history. People at home may marvel at how our children have changed both physically and socially.

We may have changed too. The experiences we have living in a different culture, perhaps among a different language, and within a different society may have changed us in small, unperceivable ways that only become visible when we return home. Maybe living abroad has made us slightly more aggressive or more passive. We may be a more confident driver or manage conflict better. Or, possibly we see beauty in more things and have a more grateful heart.

Regardless of what the changes are, we become aware of our own development when we see ourselves in our natural habitat. We may take notice of how we feel differently in familiar settings. We may see others treating us differently because they notice our change. Or, we may surprise ourselves with abilities that we didn’t have before we left. The mirror in which we see ourselves becomes crisp and clear.

Then and now: validating the change and using it to feel confident and in control

Not being startled by the change is the first focus we should have. It can easy to see change as a negative occurrence and make a judgment: “Look at how living abroad is making me bossy/sentimental/aggressive/etc. I was more flexible/stronger/more relaxed/etc. before moving.” Yet, in reality, change isn’t inherently good or bad. Change is change. How we use it determines if it is positive for us or not.

The changes that occur in us from living abroad are now part of who we are. Life experiences have been the catalysts of those changes. We lived, we learned, and we changed. That is the extraordinary thing about living. We get the chance to develop and transform ourselves as needed to be the best people we can be. Living abroad has given us the opportunity to flex our change muscle and see what we can still do.

We, along with our families, are acquiring the skills needed to be life-long learners. Change doesn’t scare us into staying in safe situations where we control everything (or believe in that myth). Instead, we have the confidence and ability to take on challenges, meet those challenges, and accept the change within ourselves that is inherent to that process.

Knowledge is power

  • What new information did you learn from this posting? 
  • Did it help you identify something in your family you would like to change? 

Share your experience below and what steps you plan on taking to guide your family.

 

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Domingo, 23 Julio 2017

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