Ten years ago today I moved to America… what a ride it’s been!
Ten years ago today I moved to America. I arrived with my husband Andrew, my young broad of children (aged 3, 2 and 8 weeks) and my mum, who had generously offered to help me that first month on the ground. It took 33 hours to fly from Melbourne (via Sydney, Auckland, LA and Denver) to Dallas that October day in 2001. Air schedules following 9/11 had been thrown into havoc. And when we arrived in Dallas, weary to our bones, we discovered the first bombs had dropped on Afghanistan while we were in transit. Needless to say, it was a journey marked with many emotions and a very, very, long day.. and night… and day.
Looking back on that day ten years ago, I can still feel the emotions I felt. An over arching sadness saying goodbye to my family, not knowing when we’d return. Anxiety about settling in to a new city in a new country (Texas no less). Resentment at my husband (not deserved, but still, I felt it) at the fact that we were doing this for his career, even though I’d always advocated living abroad. Overwhelm as the “perfect storm” of life circumstances hit me all at once. And finally, of course, exhaustion – something every mother of three children under 3 ½ feels in the base case, without having to pack up my life to relocate to the far side of the globe.
And so here I am, ten years on, more gray hairs, deeper smile (frown?) lines, and ten extraordinary years of experience, opportunity, friendship and cultural assimilation behind me! Not to mention a few hundred thousand air miles from the 9 or 10 (I’ve lost count!) trips back to Australia since then.
To live life to the fullest, to seize its opportunities, and to survive its adversities – we must embrace it as a grand adventure in “human becoming”, and trust in ourselves more deeply that whatever happens along the way, we can handle it.
People often ask me, “When will you move back to Australia?” Ten years ago, I would’ve told them “in about 3 years, but definitely in five.” Nowadays I say, “I have no idea.” And the truth is, I don’t. And what is weird is that I’m okay with not knowing where my future lies, what country I will be living in ten years from now or even what country my kids will one day call home. I’ve come to realize that even if I wanted to plan the future, I couldn’t. Sometimes opportunities arise, plans change, and doors open in ways that go beyond anything we could ever imagine, much less plan for.
America has been good to me, to us – despite the economic turmoil of the year few years, it’s surpassed its reputation as the “land of opportunity.” It’s also challenged me to grow in so many ways – to become more generous, to be more open in my faith, to appreciate the impact of racism on the hearts of those who’ve suffered from it, and to be more courageous in my own aspirations, conversations and actions.
Your future may seem more predictable than mine. Or maybe not. Either way, it doesn’t matter whether you have never moved in your life or you have moved a hundred times. It doesn’t matter whether you still live in the country of your birth or have transplanted by choice or force or conflict. It doesn’t matter whether you would ever have believed you would find yourself living the life you are today if someone had told you of it ten years ago. The most important lesson I’ve learnt in the last ten years is this: to live life to the fullest – to seize it’s opportunities and to survive it adversities – we must embrace it as a grand adventure in “human becoming”, and trust in ourselves more deeply that whatever happens along the way, we can handle it. We are all citizens of the world, and only when we see ourselves as such, without distinction of nationality, the country we are born in, the culture we’ve been shaped by, or the color of our skin, can we transcend the pschological barriers that sometimes keep us from growing into the fullness of the person that we are, and making the most of the opportunities that life brings our way. Whatever the color of your skin or country in your passport, the religion that you practice or the language you speak, I hope that you can bloom wherever you are now planted and that whatever adventures lay ahead for you, that you can enjoy them for all that they are, and for all that they are not.
The world has continued to grow smaller and more connected in the last decade. Ten years ago Facebook did not exist. Ten years ago I couldn’t Skype my family in Australia. Ten years ago I couldn’t send a picture of my 4th child (our “Texas souvenir”) out on the ice playing. Or if I could, I had no idea how. Yet despite how much easier it is to communicate with loved one’s far away, the importance of laying down roots wherever we are is just as essential to our ability to bloom wherever we are currently planted. Yet however deep our roots, they should never keep us from spreading our wings, exploring new possibilities or seizing new (and unplanned) opportunities, because sometimes the richest life experiences unfold in ways we could never imagine. Helen Keller once said, “Life is a daring adventure or nothing.” Indeed it is. And I am intent on continuing to live it to the hilt.
As Steve Jobs, who passed away this week once said, “Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart. … Stay hungry. Stay foolish.”