When Life Throws You a Curveball

I left home a month ago and moved 4,000 miles away. I had two weeks’ warning.

Two weeks to pack up whatever was most important to me and move out of my parents’ house.

Two weeks to say goodbye to as many of my friends as I could before I left, knowing that my ticket was one-way and not knowing when I’d be back.

Needless to say, this was not how I imagined my summer would go.

…I cannot speak, nor think,
Nor dare to know that which I know…
—William Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

I grew up in Nicaragua, a country nestled in the heart of Central America. Although I lived in the United States for a year and a half while getting my Associate’s degree, I always felt like Nicaragua was home, like my heart stayed there when I was away.

And even though I was planning to move back to the States after I finished my degree, part of me wanted to stay in Nicaragua forever.

So…what changed?

Nicaragua was the safest country in Central America…until a few months ago.

There are times in the lives of most of us when we would have given all the world to be as we were but yesterday, though that yesterday had passed over us unappreciated and unenjoyed.
—William Edward Hartpole Lecky

Earlier this year, civil and political unrest erupted in the country. The rapid escalation of the violence seemed even more shocking and horrrifying because it was so unexpected. One day, peace; the next day, chaos.

I won’t get into all the details, but after about two and a half months, my parents decided it would be best if my sister and I moved back to the States for a while.

It wasn’t that we were in any direct danger—but things are unpredictable when violence is involved. Even neutral parties can end up in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Meanwhile, in the States, we had a welcoming community filled with extended family to support us and the chance to live a normal life in a much less stressful environment. We agreed that the move was for the best.

So…how long are you staying?

We bought one-way tickets because we didn’t know when we would be able to return.

The original plan was to go to the States until things calmed down. We could always come back when things were back to normal, right?

It only took me a few days to realize that that wasn’t really going to happen. The more I looked at the extent of the unrest in Nicaragua, the more I realized that there wasn’t going to be a quick and easy solution.

I imagined myself in the States, waiting for things to calm down so I could go home. Where would I stay? I couldn’t camp out in people’s guest rooms indefinitely—sooner or later, I would need to find a long-term living situation. And sooner or later, I would need to get a job to pay for this living situation.

We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.
—D.H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

I wouldn’t be able to stay in limbo, waiting for some unknown solution to materialize. It would be neither healthy nor responsible to do so. Sooner or later, I would start making plans and commitments and putting down roots in my new home.

And at that point, I realized, even if everything in Nicaragua got better, even if all the problems magically disappeared and everything went back to the way it used to be, would I really choose to leave my job and my apartment and my new life that I had spent months building?

Would I really choose to uproot myself again when there was no real need to do so?

Would I choose to move back in with my parents, knowing that I had been planning to move out after college anyway? Would it even make sense to move back for two months or four or however long I had left on my degree?

I had to face the facts: in all likelihood, I wouldn’t be going back.

So…what next?

We’ve been in the States for one month now.

I still feel overwhelmed a lot of the time. Moving this far to a different country with a different culture is a major life change—and we made this change on really short notice!

When people ask me what my plans are, I have responsible-sounding answers I can give them.

  • We’re looking at apartments.
  • Yes, rent is expensive these days.
  • No, I don’t have a job yet, but I’m going to start applying soon.
  • Yes, I’ve thought of working in education, and in translation, and in pretty much every other field I’m even remotely qualified for.
  • Yes, I have some “plans.”

In the end, though, my “plan” is basically to put one foot in front of the other—and repeat. I’ll try some things, and if they don’t work, I’ll try different things.

I don’t have everything figured out. But here’s the thing: neither does anyone else.

And trust me—we’re all going to be fine.

…If fate is kind
or cruel, man still must try.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Tell me about a time your life took an unexpected turn. Did you learn anything from the experience? I’d love to get to know you in the comments!

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