3 Things I’ve Learned Since Leaving Home

It’s been almost six weeks since I left home.

Sometimes, I feel like it can’t possibly have been that long. The last few weeks feel blurred together, a jumbled mess in which grief and expectation and chaos and uncertainty are indistinguishable from one another.

On other days, I feel like I’ve been gone for ages and ages. On days like this, when homesickness feels overwhelming, home seems like a faraway, unreachable concept—like something I can barely remember, much less find again.

I don’t always know what I feel or how to articulate it, but in the last six weeks, I’ve learned three things that I have to keep reminding myself.

#1. I still have control over my life and my health.

…nobody, great or small, can be ruined except by his own hand.
—Oscar Wilde, De Profundis

For a while after we moved, I felt powerless, as though I didn’t have any control over what was going on in my life.

In a way, it makes sense. I didn’t choose for the violence in Nicaragua to happen, and I didn’t choose to leave home. In many ways, I’ve been reacting to my circumstances, not making stuff happen of my own initiative.

Once I got to the States, though, I kept reacting to what was happening rather than making intentional choices for my life.

I felt like I had to do whatever everyone else was doing—including staying up late at night and sleeping in, which are not really my favorite things (I’m a morning person, all the way!). I felt like I had to say yes to every invitation, agree to every suggestion, and go along with whatever the people around me wanted to do 100% of the time.

Obviously, my life revolves around others a lot more now than it usually does. I don’t have my own home and routines right now, and I haven’t started working yet.

In spite of that, though, I am not a victim of my circumstances. Even though some aspects of my life feel a little chaotic right now, I am still in control of what I choose to do.

If I need to sleep, I can go home early and sleep.

If I need to take a couple of hours alone to pray and journal and process what’s going on, I can do that.

Everything I do or don’t do this summer is my choice. Remembering this makes me feel a lot more relaxed. And ironically, I feel more okay with staying up late and having less routine than I prefer because I know I’m not being forced into it: it’s my choice.

#2: My expectations for myself are way too high.

…the trouble is, humans do have a knack of choosing precisely those things that are worst for them.”
—J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Right before I moved, I remembered that the Pacific Northwest is an hour behind Nicaragua time, and I got excited.

“What a great time to jumpstart my productivity,” I thought. “I’ll be able to wake up an hour earlier without feeling like I’m missed sleep.”

I expected myself to wake up early every morning to exercise and journal and spend 45 minutes studying my Bible and blog and write a book by the end of the summer and still be involved with all the social events of the season.

And for some reason, that sounded realistic to me.

Here’s the thing: literally no one expected me to do all this but me, and I had somehow failed to realize how ambitious my expectations were for me right now.

I had just gone through a very stressful experience:

  • Moving is tough; moving on short notice is even more so.
  • Goodbyes are hard; goodbyes you didn’t expect to make can be torturous.
  • Emotions can be complicated at the best of times; feeling so many emotions so deeply is exhausting.

When I really thought about it, I realized that those expectations were way too high—especially over the summer. It’s perfectly okay to do less, to take things slower for now.

I don’t have to do it all. And I shouldn’t expect myself to.

#3: You don’t always learn inside your comfort zone.

I cannot praise a fugitive and cloistered virtue, unexercised and unbreathed, that never sallies out and sees her adversary, but slinks out of the race where that immortal garland is to run for, not without dust and heat.
—John Milton, Areopagitica

Leaving home so suddenly was definitely not something I would have chosen for myself. Having to find a house and work full-time and get used to a new climate and culture without any time to prepare for it was not something I would ever want to do.

It’s definitely pushed me outside my comfort zone.

Since moving, though, I’ve learned so much that I don’t know I would have learned at home.

Would I have learned to take responsibility for my life if I were still living at home?

Would I have been forced to confront my expectations for myself if I’d stayed where I was comfortable?

We often don’t confront our most insidious flaws until we’re forced to confront them—and when we’re safe inside our comfort zone, we can get very good at avoiding that kind of confrontation.

I don’t have my comfort zone anymore—it’s 4,000 miles away. There are no familiar patterns to fall into, no well-practiced routines to carry me along, no easy options that let me drift through my life. Each choice must be made, each expectation evaluated, and each mistake owned up to.

I could complain and wish for an easier life—

—or I could accept that it is here, where things are uncomfortable and painful and hard, that I grow.

What do I choose?

Have you had to learn any of these lessons? What circumstances in your life have pushed you toward growth?

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