As I write, I’m hovering somewhere over the Atlantic, sitting next to my 6-year-old daughter. In a few hours, we’ll land at our first stop in Europe. For the next 10 days, we’re collecting our belongings from our former life abroad in Turkey, saying goodbye to the places that matter most, and spending time with people we love.
We’re closing the door as best we can,—18 months later than we wanted, but it’s better than nothing. For us, it was worth the money and the time spent to travel this month, spending time together, and reflecting on what once was.
Our return to the States was quite sudden. We initially flew to the U.S. with return tickets for a month later—we thought we were only visiting, and then we’d head back to our Turkish apartment and life and, well, everything we knew. My son was born there, and my daughter had lived there since she was two. It was home to them.
My focus now is on closure. I’ve had time to percolate our sudden relocation this past year as I’ve slowly adapted to being an American parent: scheduled playdates, drive-thrus, SUVs, parents who micromanage their kid’s entertainment.
Last summer, our family went to a week-long workshop to helped us debrief from our life as expats, and then to move forward. At the end of the week, we met with the children’s specialist to talk about her how to help our kids adjust. She gave us one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever heard:
Cut the bungee cords.
Transitioning from one thing to another is like crossing a bridge. You’re in-between two worlds, moving in one direction, and in order to make it to the other side, you need to temporarily hover over deep water, which can be scary.
The problem is, lots of us are tethered to bungee cords—we’re still tied to where we left. As long as you keep it on, you’ll ricochet back, unable to really move forward. You’ll get to the other side of the bridge, only to snap back.
We were told to take off the bungee cords. The way to do this is to live completely wherever we are, in the present. Not ignoring the past, but not wishing we were there, either.
Living in present also means not pretending like the here-and-now is a waiting room for the next thing.
To be fully present is to give thanks for the past (no matter how dark), say goodbye to what once was, and to move forward. To enjoy the view where we are.
These ten days back in Turkey are us cutting our bungee cords. We won’t pretend we never lived here, nor that we had to suddenly move back to the States without our permission. It’s to say thanks and goodbye in the most literal of ways, so we can move on with where we are now.
This is true for all sorts of experiences, whether we’re living in a new country or watching our kids grow up. Much as we might long for the past, wishing we were back there won’t make it happen.
When we do that, we’re missing out on what’s around us right now.
Saying goodbye is painful. We’ve shed tears this week, and I’m sure we’ll share more. But it’s the healthiest way for us to move forward.
I’m thankful for the path we’re on. And we’re taking off the bungee cords.