For my online creative writing course, I had to write a letter to a real or imaginary friend. I worked really hard on it, and I thought it fit well as a post on my blog because it talks about a lot of things that are important to me. Not only that, I prefer to post longer posts with good content. This means that this takes more time, but I’m aiming for quality over quantity. Although this was originally addressed to one person, it’s written in a way that can be addressed as an open letter to my other friends as well.
Here is the letter. Enjoy!
The life of a third culture kid is a strange one. We move to a new country, learn about its culture, and make wonderful friends. Suddenly, at some point in time, we have to say goodbye—propelling us forward towards our next adventure. Frankly, I never even imagined I would be moving to America. It was a far-fetched dream; in other words, a mirage in the desert. But here we are! The day has arrived, and it is now my present.
In 38 days, 18 minutes, and 45 seconds and counting, I’m moving to California. This means that my life in the UAE will end very soon. At times, life in the UAE, feels quite permanent; however, all expats know that living in the UAE is temporary. Of course, it’s not something we worry about in the present, as it would destroy our ability to seize the day. The way I see it is that the UAE expats have the mindset of kids visiting a carnival. In the back of their minds, they know it’s going to end. But kids don’t worry about it because they don’t think about the future like adults do. Also, they’re having way too much fun.
Thus, you eat your buttery and golden popcorn, gaze at the pin people when you’re at the top of the Ferris Wheel, and waste your money on silly carnival games. You frantically run around to give everything a whirl…and lo and behold. Suddenly, your day is over. It’s now time to say goodbye to your lovely friends and a fun outing. Although everyone views their UAE experience differently, to me, this is how I feel about leaving the UAE: tomorrow morning, the other UAE expats will wake up happy; because, they are still in the same environment where the carnival takes place. So even though their friends come and go, their environment stays the same. They still feel comfortable because there is still something familiar in their lives. Unfortunately, for me, the carnival won’t ever be back because I’ll be moving away from all of my in and out-of-country friends. In my case, I’ll be gone. For good.
Now most people wish they were in my shoes. Every time I tell people about the move to California, their eyes glaze over with excitement. They’re willing to drop everything and anything to move to the Golden State. They explain how lucky I am. In response, I give them a sad smile.
What they don’t realize is that boarding a flight to Los Angeles Airport (LAX) is only the last step of the moving process. There are so many things to be done before I leave: selling furniture, filling out legal documents, and figuring out what to do when we land there. Even after so much planning, a mishap can happen because moving to a country halfway across the world is a whole another ordeal. However, nobody thinks about this. We all think the grass is greener on the other side.
For example, no one understands the mental baggage of saying goodbye to all of my favorite things about the UAE. Alongside those goodbyes, a quiet and lingering static noise of sadness pulsates in my brain subconsciously. In order to cope, I’ve shoved these fond memories about the UAE in a dusty box. I’ve put off dealing with the pain until I actually board the flight on a one-way ticket to the Land of the Free.
Although I’ve visited the U.S. countless times, I know I will still get culture shock. I know I will struggle over little things, which will leave me frustrated. For example, I won’t always understand every reference from American pop culture even though Hollywood is popular world over. I won’t know where and when I’ll meet my next potential friend. I’ll feel alone when residents struggle to relate to my adventures of living in the UAE. For instance, where else in the world does school shut down because of a rainstorm? And most of all, I’ll feel embarrassed when I can’t quite think in dollars yet—one of the strongest currencies in the world—because I’ve grown up using dirhams.
Because of all these frustrations, we miss things we didn’t know we would miss. The truth is, I don’t know what to value right now, so I have no idea what I will miss. How much can I try to enjoy it all? I can’t. No matter how much I try to prepare for life in the U.S., I will feel completely out of my element. But that’s okay. In other words, when we feel the adrenaline pumping through our veins, helping us feel aware of every cell in our body because of something unexpected that took your breath away—that is when we feel alive. That my friend is what makes life exciting. But yet, there is fear because of the uncertainty. There is stress. There is that lingering bittersweet feeling of saying goodbye to so many things you never knew you could say goodbye too.
As a third-culture-kid, goodbye is a prevalent word in my vocabulary. It’s a word that I had to say throughout my whole life to many people: my relatives, my friends, and a former part of myself. And now, the place I call home. But the question is, where is home? Is it a place? A feeling? A person? The way I see it, home can be anything you want it to be. It’s a place where you feel loved, safe, and comfortable. It’s when you’re in harmony with your environment and others around you. You’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.
Unfortunately, you stop growing when you become too comfortable. You know you have a problem when you feel each day merges into the next; the lines of day and night blur into each other. A book is akin to a story of real life. Lives have a beginning, middle, and end. As much as I hate endings, we actually need them. It’s like a movie or a book. If it drags on too long, it stops being good. Moreover, you need plenty of plot-twists in order to keep the reader excited for more. Otherwise, the book becomes monotonous and boring. Maybe a change in direction is what I need. Maybe moving to California is my real-life plot twist.
But if there’s anything I know is worth anything, it is this: the relationships I have built over the years living in the UAE. Friends may come and go, but it’s the ones that transcend countries are the ones worth fighting for. The ones worth staying up late at night because of the different time zones. The ones worth exchanging long messages over social media. And this is what has made my life what it is. And you know what? I wouldn’t give it up for anything in the world.
And soon enough, the unfamiliar will become familiar. And soon, I will call the one of the highly touted places in the world, my home.
Please visit me before I leave. I miss you. More than you will ever know.
*Names have been changed for anonymity purposes.
Have you guys ever moved before? What do you recommend people should do before moving for good? Have you ever experienced culture shock? Let me know in the comments!