One year in the US - the unexpected transition

Transition is something we talk about a lot in missions.  But that doesn't mean we are good at it.

People transition in and out. New students come, old friends leave.  Every good friend that I have had over the last 18 years has come for a limited time, then left.  Eventually that takes a toll on one.

Our extended time in the US came upon us unexpectedly, and yet now I can see it was unavoidable.  Tensions and stresses had been building up for years, and yet letting go of everything in Panama was an excruciating process.

The transition has been more painful in that it was unplanned.  We didn't have months to prepare, to carefully pack, to properly say goodbye.  We left for 3 months, and didn't return.  Couldn't return.

I found myself turning in paperwork at the local school for our kids, signing up for health insurance, and the most daunting of all, negotiating the immigration process with Alex.

I feel like a hiker who had been following a fairly well marked trail, and suddenly out of need, and a desire to be healthy and whole, I am off the path, hacking a new trail out of rough underbrush.  I am not even sure where this new trail will take me, but I know I can't stay on the old trail.  It's scary, and at moments exciting, and in moments overwhelming.

I was surprised by many things during this time,

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed being back in the States. I enjoyed belonging in a place.  I enjoyed driving down the road, taking my kids to school and knowing that no one would question my place in the community.  No one here will look at my light skin, blond hair, and american passport, and ask why I am here.  In Panama, no matter how long I lived in a community, there was no way I could blend in.  I was always the foreigner,  It didn't matter how flawless my Spanish was.  I was always an outsider.

I was surprised by the resources available... public schools, local libraries, programs for kids and free resources available to parents.  I was surprised by how little people here seem to appreciate them, and by how amazing they seemed to me.

I was surprised that I didn't know the place our family would have here in this society.  To my kids, this wasn't "coming home". This was all new.  All the latino families in the area are Mexican.  It is weird to have people look at our family and assume we are part of that culture, especially when Mexican culture is completely foreign to me.  It makes me feel a little lost.  We are associated with a large portion of the culture that I know very little about.

Mostly I was surprised by the transition itself.  We had always talking about living in the States "sometime".  "Someday" we would put in the time to get Alex's green card.  "Someday" we would let our kids connect to the culture here, let them attend school here, learn about life in the States and spend time with family. Now suddenly, "someday" is today.  And it's good.  How we got here is not good; burnout, health problems, stress, financial lack.  How we got here was excruciating. But this time is good.  Reconnecting with family, looking honestly at our health and well-being, and realizing that some changes need to be made.  Realizing that we have a lot to learn.

Perhaps had we realized all this a year ago, the transition would have been smoother.  But all the "what ifs" could drown us.  We are here now, realizing that one chapter has ended and another has already began, whether we were ready for it or not.

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