Why It’s Okay To Feel Like A Foreigner

“….you are a beginner. You have not been here before, with this particular set of circumstances, with these particular people, at this particular time. Don’t be afraid to be a beginner. Be relentlessly kind to yourself. What if this is your next right thing?”

Emily P. Freeman

I thought after seven years of being a mother, ten years of being married, and thirty-seven years of being a human I would have some things figured out by now.

But why does life seem to be becoming more mysterious?

Why do I have more questions than answers?

How is it that my past experiences and the years under my belt feel like they count for nothing?

Why do I have the same awkward feelings about life as the ones I did on the first day of school?

Is it possible to be a foreigner in your own skin?

Each time we’ve moved to a new country, I needed months, usually at least a year, to learn the culture and way of life. I had to figure out the language (at least the basics), appropriate greetings, and where to find cheap diapers or the freshest vegetables.

Be it in Austria, South Africa, or The Netherlands, the question I was trying to answer was always the same- How can I thrive here?

My mindset was not that of a passing tourist or short-term visitor, I was there to stay, to make my home.

I know what it feels like to be the new person. There is a forced silence that comes over you simply because you don’t understand what’s going on. You can’t communicate to the person next to you because you don’t speak their language. You can’t offer directions to someone who asks because you get lost trying to make it back to your own home.

With every transition we’ve made through the years, I’ve noticed an interesting phenomenon- there’s a special kind of grace I bestow upon myself in a new country.

I’m not afraid to be a beginner, to give myself as much time as I need to adjust.

Furthermore, with such prolific grace undergirding my days, those first years in a new country still hold some of my favorite and funnest memories.

But here, I’m not allowed to be a beginner anymore.

Now that we’re back “home” in the US. Now that my oldest is seven. Now that I’m officially in mid-life. Now that I’ve been married ten years. Now that…you fill in the blank.

For some reason, none of these instances qualify me to be the new girl in town, which means I must have things figured out.

I crown myself with expert status- I need to have it together.

I know how to keep my kids happy, how to handle my emotions maturely, how to be kind to my husband, how to manage the chaos of life.

Assuming that I know it all isn’t working for me though.

It makes me afraid. I can’t try something new or explore a different path.

It stresses me out. I can’t make a wrong turn. There’s no room to back up or turn around. I white knuckle the steering wheel, thinking there’s a cliff on either side of me.

And it loads me down with shame. There’s no space for grieving or crying. It’s not right to feel overwhelmed, especially by stupid, little things.

How do I thrive here?

Turns out, it’s a question I’m not finished asking.

We are, even those of us who try to avoid change, ever-evolving creatures, living in a fluid world, following a God who constantly woos us into new territories with each dawning of the day.

Welcome sweet one, is what I really want to say to myself, but so often I don’t.

I’d continue…

You’ve never been here before. You will feel like a foreigner in your own skin, and that’s perfectly normal. In fact, it’s better this way. As a beginner you are not only free to fumble and to fail, but you are expected to.

There’s decisions you might need more time to make, situations you might need to back out of, even though they originally sounded good, relationships and commitments that may need to be put on hold, dreams that could use some space to grow, and ideas you are curious to explore.  

There’s nothing more dreadful than trying to force yourself out of or ignore the uncomfortable homesickness.

Today is a new country, full of paths you’ve never taken, faces you’ve never seen, words you don’t know how to speak yet, and experiences you will remember forever.

Fill up on wonder, let curiosity be your guide, expect to get lost, lather on the grace, take all the time you need.

Thriving cannot be rushed.

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