Farther Along


It’ll be hard, they said.

Give yourself at least a year to adjust, they said.

So I gave myself a year, and July 1 marked the day, and most days since then, I’m not sure that a year did any good in helping to adjust. I’m still fragile enough that tears are usually simmering just under the surface, and I would happily board a plane tonight to go back to Poland. 


That strike-through option shows me that a year does something more than I’ve realized. I couldn’t freely board a plane to leave because it would mean tearing up the little burrow I call home and leaving work I’m coming to love and people who have come to mean a great deal to me.

But if I’d have known how harrowing the year was going to be, I’m pretty sure I’d never have had the courage to start.

“There is always something to miss, no matter where you are.” That’s what Sarah, plain and tall, said. Her words have helped keep me from feeling completely insane in this crazy mix of being happy and sad in the same second.

I miss simple, flavorful European food without sauces that disguise whatever it is. I miss living in town and walking wherever I want to go. I resent needing to drive everywhere. I miss taking the train or bus to the next town or across the country. I miss elegance and stately city designs. But I love how easy it is to drive away for the weekend, and how stores are air-conditioned and how customer service agents laugh with me on the phone.

I always hesitate when writing the date–is it month or day first?–and I feel like a deviant either way I write it. I push down the anger when people talk so LOUDLY in public places because it feels terribly invasive and indecent to me. I shudder at the shocking amounts of artificial coloring in food. I’m agog at how effortlessly church fellowship dinners appear and I did nothing to contribute. I still hate answering the glib question about where I’m from. I still feel like a foreigner, an oddity.

But I know my address by heart now, and that feels like a huge accomplishment. I have a PA driver’s license and a local library card. I know my way around town without a GPS. I walk around campus with this incredibly rested, relaxed spirit, singing, instead of feeling the tight, nervous, nameless fear of a year ago. And most delightfully, there are people with whom I share inside jokes and confidences, and I didn’t even know them a year ago.

hmmmm.   Maybe a year makes a bigger difference than I thought.

Maybe I’ll always feel like an oddity. Maybe it’s deeper than feeling European and a “returned missionary.” Maybe it’s part of the human condition, which is why I talk about it here. I’m not that eager to dump my feelings on the internet, but maybe someone else feels like a forever transplant. Maybe another human out there feels odd and mixed up. I’ve met more of those this year than I ever knew existed. We’re a weird bunch, puzzled and dazed and mystified at how it’s possible to function in this world while feeling very attached to another place.

There may not be compensation for the losses sustained in our fragmented hearts, but I’m slowly, slowly coming to see that what’s behind us gives us more to go forward with. It’s possible there’s a largeness of soul gained from our experiences that gives us something more to offer our world than we could have otherwise.

These ideas are just tentative. Maybe in another year I’ll know more about it.


21 thoughts on “Farther Along

  1. “what’s behind us gives us more to go forward with” Love it! So simple… and so profound it makes my toes tingle.

    And “yes” to the whole article. A year makes a difference. It does. But only about enough to put you in no man’s land – neither here nor there. And the soul still weeps.

    Again, thank you for putting these things into words!

  2. Finish reading this with tears in my eyes and a lump in my throat. Thank you for being willing to dump your feelings for someone else who feels forever transplanted. Your words let me know again I’m not alone.

  3. I get this. We’ve been moving a lot recently and it bewilders me how many places feel like home. My sweet niece made me the cutest sign though, and I posted it on the refrigerator. It states- in very big swirly letters surrounded by hearts- “Home is where love is” .. and then it made me homesick for heaven.

  4. As someone has just finished 2.5 years of “returned missionary” status… yes it gets better… slightly. But tears still come and at the most unexpected times!

  5. There is so very much I can relate to written here. Our circumstances may be different but there is the great mix of sadnesses and joys, the learning the new and missing the old. Thanks for sharing.

    • I’m coming to learn that part of being fully human is living with that crazy mix. It’s how complex we are, and why there are no quick cures for the sadness. The good news is that there is also SO MUCH joy at the same time!

  6. I came here to comment… but I don’t know what to add… *hugs* Speaking for myself, I think it’s a permanent condition to have chunks of my heart scattered in various places on the globe.

  7. Thanks again for the encouragement!!! Life seems to constantly change and although the changes bring joy there is also sorrow at the moments left behind… Living life w open hands is a challenge! Thank u again!!!! What a comfort to know that others live w a crazy mix of feelings!

  8. Yup, know the feelings! I told my sister in a letter that a person only truly knows the longing for rest and a permanent home who has ventured into lands afar not because of inquietude at home BUT from a loving, stable home. You echoed that in one of your last lines.

    “There may not be compensation for the losses sustained in our fragmented hearts, but I’m slowly, slowly coming to see that what’s behind us gives us more to go forward with. It’s possible there’s a largeness of soul gained from our experiences that gives us something more to offer our world than we could have otherwise.”

    There is not enough chocolate, coffee or friends (or any other good thing) that can make us live at peace with transition and past memories of great experiences. Only a full trust in the Father can do that.

  9. Just found your blog! Yay! Love this article, it echoes the dilemma that swirls through my own soul….”Maybe someday we can move back to Washington, to the huge evergreens, ferns, streams, and the Sound. But then I’d miss this glorious sky and all the sunshine!” And I still miss you, friend. How do people survive who don’t believe in heaven?

  10. Oh i’m so glad someone else gets it!! The whole mess, the tears at unexpected moments, the lump in the chest, the longing for some serene cobblestone streets and a few fiercely dignified yet darling European folks to chat with, the shock of watching people eating a whole DQ blizzard BY THEMSELVES, the sloppy English language, yeah, just the whole bundle…. it was so beautifully written and touched a place in my heart I’ve been trying to ignore for the past several weeks…. thanks for opening up and letting me see I’m not the only one struggling through this!! Here’s praying God will bring healing and an added aspect of beauty to your life through this ordeal!! -lori

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