Past the Point of Resilience

As a TCK I am used to moving constantly, I am used to change, and I am used to jumping into a culture and embracing all its quirky characteristics until I grow to love them. I took pride in my ability to say goodbye easily and move with an optimistic attitude about each place we went to. I was the first in my family to pack my suitcase and be ready to go, the first to explore and meet new friends and the first to try new food. I thrived off of change.

I never thought that this change I loved so much would betray me. It was a Sunday afternoon in Peru when my parents sat me down on the couch. The sunlight was coming in through the windows, brightening the room, the house was quiet and everything felt right. When my dad started talking, tears ran down my face as I soaked in his words and tried to make sense of what he was saying. We were leaving Peru in three days. No one in Peru knew we were leaving and only a handful of people in the States knew we were coming back. I wasn’t allowed to tell anyone we were moving away. My mom and I quietly packed up my room and we left 72 hours later with no goodbyes.

We landed in Minnesota on Wednesday night to an almost empty baggage claim. Family friends picked us up and took us back to their house. After a couple of days, my dad went to stay somewhere else, we moved my sister into college, and my parents divorced. Instead of jumping back into life and embracing all the changes, I withdrew and created distance between myself and everyone around me. Minnesota used to be home, but I had already said my goodbyes here and let go of everything. I wasn’t expecting to come back. Peru felt more like home than Minnesota ever did.

My dad moved to another state to a rehab facility to get help for an addiction. My mom and I jumped from house to house, and I started a new academic term at my fourth high school. Minnesota felt different. The winters were long and lonely and people felt cold and detached. Maybe it was because I was used to the Peruvian greeting of kissing people on the cheek, or maybe people distanced themselves because they didn’t know what to say to me. Whatever the reasons were, it was hard, and I grew to dislike Minnesota all the more.

On top of my family falling apart and the suddenness of having to come back to a place I didn’t want to be, I was dealing with culture shock. Instead of being resilient and embracing the simultaneously familiar yet unfamiliar world around me, I rejected it. I didn’t want to be part of this way of life and I didn’t want to be from here. I missed everything about our life overseas.

I found that many of my conversations with people had me reminiscing about “when I was in Peru” or “when I was in Costa Rica.” I wasn’t trying to brag about where I’ve been, those were just my stories. I started to get the sense that people were tired of hearing me talk like this. They also didn’t understand why I no longer felt at home in the same place I was born. I felt like I could no longer be myself here. Instead, I had to try and fit into this mold they had made up in their minds.

I finally left Minnesota and after a couple years of moving, landed in Tennessee. I’d had no intention of staying here, but it started to grow on me. The mountains were just a couple hours away and living in the city of Nashville wasn’t so bad. What made me stay, though, were the people. The community I gained in this southern city reminded me of my group of friends overseas. I’ve learned that sharing is healing and finally opening up to people and finding ways to relate has been so good. I broke my habit of moving every one to two years, and I satisfy my craving for change by leaving the country to travel at least once a year.

Life looks a lot different now for me and my family. We have a new normal and that’s okay. Looking back, I’m sure there are ways I could have handled things better but at that point in my life I was on autopilot. I’m still letting go of the anger but I’m not bitter about being in the States. Now, I’m trying to embrace this new city and learn to love it for all its differences.

This article was first published on 16 December 2017