Step 8: Prepare emotionally

We’ve joked about becoming jerks to our friends and family, so it will be easier on them when we go.  But turns out it’s not so easy to do.

We are both a little worried we’re emotionally unprepared for an adventure of this magnitude.  I’m very attached to my family and friends and have a history of experiencing homesickness. (Once I faked being ill to come home from a weeklong camp, 30 minutes from my home).  When I moved to Ottawa, the hardest part was not the study of heinous human rights violations, or trying to sleep with *noisy roomies next door. It was missing my family back home.  I cried a lot those first weeks away from home.

And to be fair, my family didn’t make it easy on me.

A story you say?

I’ll tell you two.

Story One: It’s Thanksgiving.  I’ve come back to Alberta to visit after just a few weeks away at school in Ontario.  My parents have driven me the two hours to the Calgary airport and are seeing me off to the security checkpoint.  They even brought Dakota along for the trip.  We say our sad goodbye, but I am emotionally barely-keeping-it-together.  I’m teary, but not weeping.

I take my bags through security and make my way to my gate.  I notice that there is a clear glass wall separating my gate from the people on the other side of security. Mom and Dad are standing on the other side of the clear glass and dad is just barely-keeping-it-together.  He steps closer to the pane and puts his hand flat on the glass.  Like a moth to the flame, I walk toward my side of the glass and place my hand flat against his.  We can’t hear each other, but we see one another’s hearts break and both of us fall apart.

(I’ll pause while you get a tissue).

Our hands stay on the glass, until the flight attendant calls my row to board.

Story Two:  It’s midway through my first semester at Carleton.  I’m getting to know my roommates, I’m fitting in, I’m stabilizing emotionally.  I’ve met my now, life-long friends Andrea and Amy. My phone rings and call display says its Dad.  I answer “Hi Dad!” cause i haven’t talked to him in a couple weeks (In actually fact, I almost definitely said “Hi Daddy!”).  He says “Honey, I’m so sorry but Dakota was hit by a car and killed.” I burst in to tears of grief and shock.  Dad immediately realizes the depth of excrement he’s stepped in and says “Kidding!!!!!”

I hang up.

He calls back.

I ignore.

He calls again.

I ignore.

He calls a third time and I answer tearfully to receive his earnest apology.

These stories illustrate that I experience emotion on a visceral level. I feel it in my bones.  I experience emotions of my own, and empathetically for the people around me.  I’m very emotive.  I laugh loudly, and cry regularly. (Except that one time I stopped eating sugar for a year – didn’t cry once).

In contrast, my dear husband recognizes and can identify exactly three emotions.  Happy, sad and angry.  He feels the full gamut, just like everyone else, but he only knows the names of those three.
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For example, he doesn’t know to describe himself as elated, when after three months of research, he manages to rescue all the lost files from his broken hard drive.  He simply calls me up, and plays me a youtube recording of the Hallellujah chorus in full.

So this should be fun right?

I’m hoping this will bring us together as a couple, but honestly do worry that the emotional roller-coaster will be difficult to handle.

I’m trying to learn how other people have handled it.  People have told me to:

  • Just be apathetic
  • Embrace new experiences and try to maximize each day
  • Accept that you’ll feel sad, lonely and missing home
  • Find other ex-pats
  • Avoid other ex-pats
  • Be as social as you can be
  • Open yourself up to try new things.

Do you know of anything else we should try?

Of course there are practical things that we can and will do, such as having a good long distance plan, or our friends from the UK, Sam and Rob said they use Skype for just about all international calling.  We’ll make sure we can FaceTime, and I’m trying to learn about how international texting works.

But, at the end of the day, this adventure is about pushing forward, and part of that will be opening up to new friendships and a new life. The people here in Canada will still be a part of our lives and have shaped who we are (for the better obviously).

2 thoughts on “Step 8: Prepare emotionally”

  1. Marilee, you are really an eloquent writer! I think you should pursue some serious writing. However, there are some facts that need to be straightened out in this post. Namely, I held my hand on the glass for only a moment, not the rest of the afternoon!

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