(Beijing, May 5, 2014) I was just telling a friend the other day… “I like this life that we have here.” And I meant it – it’s a good life that we’ve been living here in Beijing. 7 years of this good life. Sure, it has its ups and downs, just like life anywhere. But I choose to focus on the positive – we have fulfilling jobs and a nice home, our kids are happy in school and have had excellent teachers and good friends, we have been able to travel widely in China and Asia and see some amazing things, and maybe most important of all, we have (and have had over the years) friends and colleagues that have added something very special to our lives.
But, now we’re getting ready to say goodbye to this life. We’re ready to go and yet I can’t help but feel a little sad about leaving. Ok, more than a little – a lot. Pretty much I’m a lot of emotions bundled up into one right now. Because you see, we aren’t just saying goodbye to this great life we’ve been living, we are also launching ourselves into uncharted territory. We are going to embark on a year-long adventure. A family gap year, you might say. Our plan is to take a year off from work and school and travel across the US. We’re soon going to buy an RV (even though we’ve never driven or spent a night in one in our lives – call us crazy maybe?) and take off on the open road.
You see, while we’ve lived this great life overseas, our kids have been growing up here – away from their home country, their relatives, their culture. Of course, we have had summers in the US packing in as much family time, American culture, time with friends, shopping for supplies, and oh yeah, some relaxing here and there as well as we could in 6 short weeks. We were also usually home in the US for winter break as well. But, at this point, our children have lived longer overseas than in the US. And we feel that it’s time to reconnect. Time to spend more than a few weeks with family, time to get a sense of the amazing country we are from, time to take a breather from this (pretty cool and great) life that we live day in and day out and sit back and see what other amazing things life might have in store for us.
And this brings me back to my big bundle of emotions. I am thrilled that we have been able to create this opportunity for ourselves and so thankful that I have a husband who wants this too. But I am nervous about the unknown that lies ahead (what if we all can’t stand that much “togetherness”???). And I am excited for the endless possibilities that lie before us in this year. And not just a little overwhelmed by that too. I am unsure if the reality of it all will match the dreams we’ve been creating for the last couple of years.
Let’s not forget also, that before all that can happen, we have to sort through our entire house to determine what goes in the shipment, what gets sold, what gets donated/gifted. We have to clear that large “inbox” of things to do at work and it sure feels like time is running out quickly. We have to say our goodbyes (something I have become used to but still find painful at best), cherish time with friends, and do all of our “lasts”.
So what’s a person to do? Well, I have a (pretty extensive) ‘to do’ list and I try to breathe deeply and calmly a few times each time I’m looking at it. I try hard not to get so caught up in all that has to be done that I miss out on the beautiful moments that I still have here. I try to savor them, try to take a mental picture. And sometimes I take real pictures – pictures of silly things like the Watson’s Water soda water that I drink so often, of sentimental things like our white Jeep Cherokee because although it’s probably the worst car I’ve ever owned (and that’s saying something), it has gotten us to and fro in this amazing city. I take pictures of memories that span the years like the woman I have bought my scarves from in the Pearl Market for the last 7 years and the flower lady outside of Capital Paradise who always has the best smile and, of course, photos of things I don’t want to ever forget about my life here such as the faces of my friends and of my kids’ faces as they do their last performances or sporting events here at this amazing school.
What else do I do to manage my bundle of emotions? I look to the year ahead with excitement and I try to calm my fears with logic and positive thinking. I try to take time each day to do something that eases my stress just a bit and I try to spend time with the people that I will miss dearly when we are gone. I strive to be a supportive and patient wife and mother through it all (with varying degrees of success, I will confess) because it’s not just me going through all of this – it’s all of us – we’re all in this together. And as one adventure ends, so another begins for the Gold family.