“What’s the hardest part?” I’ve often been asked this question throughout the past five years.
I have had other friends who have gone before me. Some have lived or currently live in Dubai, New Zealand, Ireland or Turkey. It was always difficult to say goodbye. Of course, I’m grateful for Skype, FaceTime, texting and email! None compare to sitting down over coffee. Though I didn’t fully understand the lives of these brave friends until I made the permanent international move myself.
Of course, each person’s experience is unique but I have found the most difficult thing to be loneliness. The challenge has been to know what was the main source of it.
When I initially moved here in 2010, I had been married for one week. It was a rude awakening after spending most of our dating/engaged relationship long-distance. Not to mention, I married an entrepreneur who jumped into working long hours from day one. Some days, especially during the busy holiday season, he would leave early in AM and return the following morning from the factory.
I left a wonderful community of friends and church to a city where I knew no one. And I couldn’t communicate with them if I did meet someone new.
Previous to the move, I had left a job working for a close friend and before that, two part-time jobs: (1) on staff at a church I loved and (2) another on mission with an anti-human trafficking organization. I was plugged in and was alive! To then move to no job prospects, at home, with no internet.
I was in an unknown land. The ways of life, language and culture were foreign. I was on my own.
As you can imagine, all of these simultaneous transitions caused me to face loneliness in different stages. Being the youngest of six kids, I’ve never been good with alone time or silence.
Though loneliness has been the hardest thing for me here, it’s also been helpful. Loneliness forced me to be still and self-reflect more honestly. Loneliness has called me to reach out to friends when I’m in need. Loneliness has required me to lean on God as my true comfort–rather than things, people or tasks. Loneliness has taught be not to be afraid of stillness or silence. Loneliness has given me an understanding and compassion for others.
Loneliness calls me to authenticity.