I am reading a new book, Misunderstood by Tanya Crossman, a more modern version of the classic Third Culture Kids. I have bookmarked so many amazing and relevant subjects in this book. It seems every other page, I am nodding away in agreement.
Understanding the unique situation of transitioning in and out of an overseas stint is so interesting to me. I really want to understand the psychological, mental and emotional changes that happen.
One topic I wanted to write about was transition. This feels particularly relevant as we have a lot of families preparing to leave Cartagena and it feels like we are in a season of transition among our circle.
Some thoughts to start:
“Change happens instantly. Transition is a process that takes a long time. Transition is the process of handling the emotional fallout of physical changes.” – (Crossman, 141). Change is the physical action and transition is what comes long before and long after.
So, transition is the description of all the mix of feelings we have when we learn that change is coming. When we began the process of moving overseas, I remember the initial worry and the cloud of anxiety that just sat in my stomach for about 10 months after, both pre and post move. I was anxious about the move and all the feelings that I knew I would feel and how I would help my children feel them as well.
I can only speak from experience, but planning, list making, and researching fun things about our new destination really helped to relieve some of that anxiety of transition. What I knew would be the hardest were the feelings of sadness and saying good-bye. There is no one way to do this well, but the most important thing is to acknowledge it in a thoughtful way. Don’t cut out the back door, take the time to cry (maybe even in front of your kids) and then let them see you recover. Let them see you hug your people really tight, let them see you share all the fun memories and make promises to keep in touch, and then really do it! It’s the hardest thing to do, but it is the only way I feel okay about saying good-bye.
Pre and Post Grief:
“Some people grieve in advance of a loss – they see it coming and feel sad. An internal countdown turns normal activities into sources of grief. Others grieve after the change occurs…. some people are just wired this way. Their grief comes after the change, when they see the space where a person or place or activity used to be” (153).
I found this to be particularly interesting and it helps us understand not only our own feelings but watching the people around us who may feel bouts of sadness at different times. I am definitely a pre-griever. The minute I learn about an impending change, all I can see is how much I will miss my current situation, even if I initiated the change. I often have to remind myself in times of high-emotion, that I have to trust my judgement. I initiated the change from a thoughtful mind-set, so trust your decision-making skills.
“Despite the weariness among adult expatriates, a parent who grew up in a fairly constant environment, in a single country, has a very different experience of life abroad than that of Third Culture Kid. The emotional background upon which their experiences happen is very, very different“(142).
So that is me. I grew up in one town until I graduated high-school and I am trying to teach my children how to navigate without that same stable background. This is what keeps me learning and reading. I want to understand how this feels to them.
“Take a moment to consider how living in a constant state of transition might affect the way a child feels about their life, their world” (143).
I try to imagine what it felt like for them to leave, only to fall in love with a new place and then eventually have to leave again. They have made friends that will scatter the globe when they leave Cartagena. It is a very real conversation about possibly never seeing someone again or being able to visit a certain place again.
Like everything else in life, we can tire from all this emotional distress. We can pull back from initial connecting so leaving is not so painful. I don’t know that we have come and gone enough to feel this way, but I imagine if we had moved a few more times, it could start to feel very taxing. As much as I hate good-byes and have anxiety around change, I am always glad I do it. I am glad I take risks and head off the beaten path once in a while. The rewards far exceed the stress.