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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Happy Ameriversary!

There's something about an anniversary that brings out Introspective Alison.

A few days ago, I was leading some of my patients through Orientation Group (a daily review of the Who, What, When, Where, and Why of their lives in brain injury rehab).  Midway through the group, I stared at the date I'd written on the whiteboard and realized: It was an anniversary!

It was August 5, my three year Ameriversary.

I can easily remember that I moved back to America on August 5 because Nostalgic Alison (aided by Procrastinating Alison) kept the receipt for my PEK - CID flight saved on my desktop for years after I'd actually returned.  I blogged about that receipt in this post, which chronicles God's faithfulness to me during my first year back in America.

On my 6-month anniversary of living in Asia, I wrote a little post called Chinaversary.  It was a list of the hard and good things the Lord gave me in my first semester as an English teacher in China, including:
  • Overnight train rides that I thought would never end
  • Eating animals and plants I didn't even know existed
  • The blockage of almost all my favorite websites
  • The 60th birthday of the PRC
  • A brown Christmas
  • Cooking without cheese
  • Baking without butter
  • Carrying on my most valued relationships by Skype and e-mail
  • Teaching 190 sweet, motivated, delightful students
  • Having my assumptions challenged
  • Seeing God's word through fresh eyes (not mine)
  • Being the fastest bicyclist on the street instead of the slowest
  • Joy, purpose, and satisfaction
This week I'm reflecting on some of the hard and good things the Lord has given me in three years back in America, including:
  • Cooking with cheese
  • Baking with butter
  • Being in the same country as my family for my sister's wedding and the birth of my brother's babies.
  • Finding a job
  • Re-learning how to be a speech therapist
  • Finding a church
  • Living in a sweet old Mansion with my friends
  • Breathing clean air, and everything that clean air lets me see: Sunsets, clouds, and stars.
I am so grateful for an easier return than I ever expected, and for the many good things and good people that fill my life here in Iowa.  In reflection, I would say the hardest things about returning to the States are these two:

1)  I am forever split.  The people that I love, the places I want to be, and the person that I am are all divided between two continents.  There are parts of me that emerge only in China; for example, the part of me that gets on a stage to sing songs to a packed house because in the China-fabulous world of being a foreign teacher, part of your job is to entertain.

And there are the people.  I can't just gather up all the people I care about and keep them with me in the same country.

If I'm here, I miss there.  If I'm there, I miss here.

However, even as I have missed people on both sides of the planet, I've also realized:

2)  Life goes on.  When I flew away to China in 2009, all my relationships in America were frozen in time.  The friends I had in 2009 are the friends I thought I would return to in 2012.  But life went on.  People got married, had kids, moved away, moved on.  I moved too; my home base in 2009 was not the town I moved back to.  I was unprepared for how hard it would be to re-join the relationships I still had, and to re-build a social circle to replace the one that had inevitably changed while I was away.  Three years later, this is still hard.

Now that I'm here, my ties in Asia are likewise changing and weakening.  My former students are getting jobs, spreading across the country, getting married, moving on.  If I moved back there, I would have the same challenge as I've had here: build up the friendships that still exist, and then start fresh, building relationships with a brand new bunch.

In spite of these difficulties, the experiencing of living in another place -- really living, not just visiting -- has made both the going and the coming back completely worth it. 


LisaM said...

Yes. And yes. I am also forever split. I joke and say that my experiences messed up my life for ever, but it's 100% totally worth it. So glad you agree with me!

Alison said...

Yes! You have lived this multiple times and in 2 countries! Thanks for commenting.