Expat Chronicles: Say what you wanna Say

We first told our family about our dream to relocate overseas back in December of 2017. Their response was shock, confusion, skepticism and deeply hurt feelings. It was one of the only times in my life that I wondered if being honest was best. Our idea at the time was just a pipe dream (or so I told myself), so why cause such a stir?


I remember a walk with my mom that winter. She shared that she had asked my friend Laura if she thought we would really move. My mom choked back tears to reveal that Laura had said, “Yes.” Such a simple, yet profound affirmation. At that moment something shifted inside me, allowing me to own the realness of our crazy idea.


As 2018 progressed our move transformed from a vague years-down-the-road dream to a more specific, tangible goal. Late spring and into the summer we began taking steps toward a 2019 move. I dug into immigration law, education and taxes, while Brandon began investigating options for career change.

Throughout all of this Brandon and I spoke very openly with Aria (then 13) and Liam (11) about our ideas. In fact, we told them about the concept when it was brand new, thinking they would push back hard. Instead they were both remarkably open and optimistic about the potential for our family overseas. From the first it felt like a family project, only our extended family understood it not at all.

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And so, we didn’t talk about it. For months and months, we went to family dinners and weekly walks, enjoying our time together with Brandon’s family and mine, but feeling hemmed in by the taboo. Tentative forays into our reasons for moving often ended in tears. Political gaps widened. Distance grew.

Because silence creates distance. Keeping back something so big and exciting and challenging was and has been the most unnatural thing. It’s honesty that builds a relationship. It’s transparency that allows one to be known. When we hold back to protect those we love, we only succeed in hiding ourselves away. What we protect with such silence is a glass facade. It may look lovely, but it’s empty inside.

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That summer I started my Brave quilt. This project was inspired by Sara Bareilles' song, which alighted in my life around the time I was feeling most stifled by the taboo. You can see this quilt’s beginnings unfold here and here and here.

I so wanted to tell you all about the quilt’s meaning to me, but I couldn’t yet share our move publicly. I decided to put the quilt away until such time as I could be transparent with you too. Thankfully, now I can.

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This week I created the rest of “Brave”, the final word for my quilt. Now I’m filling in the empty spaces with improv patchwork and squaring out the improv sections so they’ll be easier to join together.

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It feels wonderful to pick up the pieces and put them together into a meaningful whole. I wish I could say that we’ve been able to do the same in conversations about our move with our extended families, but sadly, we have not.

Of course they know about the move, but it’s still hard to talk about it. At times I lean toward letting things be, not pushing them to process and discuss something that is understandably painful. Other times I remember that we have only a little over two months left. I hate to spend any of that time behind glass walls, at arms length from each other and reality.

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I’m not sure how this story ends, but I do know where we are right now. I hope to carefully, tactfully and kindly say what we really want to say to our family, about our excitement for the next chapter, our sorrow at leaving them behind and our hope to stay in touch as a family, even with the miles between us.