Probably the number one question Ex-Pats get asked is, ‘so when are you moving back?’ And the thing is even if you come on a strict 18-month assignment… that’s very likely to change… we’ve met many an Ex-Pat who has come for a year and stayed for 7 and counting. Similarly, we’ve also met many who are suddenly called home. I think many of my Ex-Pat friends would agree that it’s quite annoying to get asked this question all the time… mostly because we’re all DYING to know the answer ourselves, since most often it is very much out of our control. It’s sort of like how when you’re dating someone, everyone asks when you’re getting married, and when you’re engaged everyone asks if you’ve set the date, and if you’re married everyone asks when you’re having babies…. I used to be-grudge these questions, but I’ve learned that they’re really just trying to express interest. What annoys me, I’ve come to realize, is that they remind me of what I don’t know that I wish I did. For some reason just realizing this is helpful. I still try to stop myself from asking questions like this of others… but it can be quite hard when you know very little about them!
My advice to any Ex-Pat: Even if you come on a clear assignment… I’d just always leave your reply open-ended. Something like, “we’re not really sure, but we’re enjoying our time here for now,” works well.
Back in San Francisco, my friends and I always talked of the “quarter life crisis,” which we meant to mean that period in your twenties when you have no idea how your career, locale, or romantic life would shake out. Ohhh, the pain in not knowing the answers to any of the above! Back then I seemed to think that this period would be unique in my life and that by my thirties everything would be crystal clear… but, of course that’s not the case. Although I will admit that just having one or two of those things settled makes a big difference in my personal happiness.
The Mr. always tells me “You’ll be a whole lot happier once you learn to live with uncertainty,” and that’s certainly true. Not that I’ve figured it out yet.
This whole little ramble was brought on after reading this poem on Ten Thousand Places. Maggie sums it up nicely by saying it’s a “fuller appreciation of time than the old platitude ‘time will tell.’ “
The Slow Work of God
Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are all, quite naturally, impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something unknown,
And yet, it is the law of all progress that it is made
by passing through some stages of instability
– and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you.
Your ideas mature gradually — let them grow,
let them shape themselves without undue haste.
Don’t try and force them on as though you could be today
what time (that is to say, grace and circumstances acting on your own good will) will make you tomorrow.
Only God can say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give God the benefit of believing that the Spirit of God
is leading you, forming you, transforming you;
And accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.