This post is dedicated to my sisters who are faced with having to move in the not too distant future…
I lived in the same place for the first 20 years of my life. Sometime around age 20 or 21 I unofficially started living with my best friend and her family. It started off as weekend visits, that turned into every weekend, that turned into staying the week, that just turned into staying months…I am and will be eternally grateful to God and to the Harris family for their kind hospitality. But after 2 years of living there, and a wanting to move forward with my life, I was more than ready to leave...I had a boyfriend in the US and I was desperate to come to the US. By July 2003 we had a long distance relationship going for 2 years. Trust me; I was ready for a move…But as luck would have it, I didn’t get a scholarship to any of the schools I applied for. I knew that the ONLY way I could come to the U.S. was if I got a full ride…My hope was broken, and my chances of being together with the man I was hoping to marry one day was fading…Then…in July…of 2003…I got the letter…THE SCHOLARSHIP LETTER!
In August of 2003 I made the BIG MOVE…I left everything I knew, everything I was familiar with, and I left the place I had eventually grown to love…I left my church family and my friends who were near and dear to me…I left, but I was ready!! I was ready to be closer to my boy! Closer to my family! And closer to my living my own life!
I arrived at JFK in Aug 2003 and I feverishly looked for a familiar face…But I didn’t see anyone. Where was my family? They were supposed to pick me up at the airport! It was at that point I feel a bout of aloneness…I thought about my friends I left behind…And how I never once was abandoned at an airport. I dragged my luggage to a chair and cried for 45 minutes nonstop. I eventually pulled myself together and found the strength to walk to the nearby pay phone and called my step mom. At that point I was yelled at for not calling earlier and not telling them what airline I was coming in on. You see, coming from a small country, it didn’t matter what airline you came in on because everyone exits through the same door…OKAY, so NY was a little bigger than I imagined and I didn’t realize different flights have different exits and pick up points. But if they knew this, why didn’t they call and ask?
So, not exactly the warm welcome I was expecting…My heart longed for home…My heart missed home, my friends, my church family…I was sad.
I stayed in NY a few days and then flew to ATL. I was met by an old friend from Trinidad who drove me 3 hours to Columbia, SC. It’s amazing how friends can be more dependable that your own family. Anyway, I digress. When I got to Benedict College (BC) some lady told me that registration was closed and asked if I could come back tomorrow! So my friend was gracious enough to take me to his home 2 hours away! The next day I came back (in time) and got my room assignment. We went shopping for basic essentials (linens, pillows, towels, etc.) and my friend left…At that point that lonely feeling started creeping back in. But this is what I wanted…Right!?
I eventually settled in and met a few other international students. Truthfully, they were my source of sanity for the majority of my 3 year stint at BC. For the first two year at BC, I did not have ANY American friends in school. I did make a few friends at church…But I felt so different culturally…like an outsider…I just didn’t relate…and I really didn’t care to. I hated the school…and the mindlessness that I was surrounded by. I couldn’t wait to leave!
After two years I started to open up myself more…I started to see that there were good people amidst the mindlessness…and I made friends…American friends! I started to feel more settled and content. At the end of three years I was 25 years old, graduating and planning a wedding! Another major move and life step. As I thought about moving to North Carolina, I felt so sad that I cried. I cried because I was going to another place where I had no friends…I felt that I had finally established a support network that really helped me to survive BC, and I was leaving all that behind to go to a place where I didn’t have that. It took me so long before I finally found a church home where I was comfortable, and friends I could relate to even though they were not like me…And just as I was getting comfortable, it was time to leave. BUT AGAIN, this was a move that I was ready for. I was ready to leave BC and start my life as a married woman!
When I moved to NC in 2006 I determined that I would fight with all my will to fit in…AND not take 3 years to do so! I did not have a circle of international friends to make me comfortable and feel like home. Knowing that I was going to a strange place with no friends, I promised that I would not sit and feel sorry for myself. I promised that I would open myself to new people, I promised that I would plug myself in church right away, I promised that I would not wait to be invited out but invite others in, I promised that I would extend myself to others and give of myself to others. And with that promise my goal was achieved. Once we returned from our honeymoon, we were moving and shaking! Before we knew it we had friends, people over at our house, and active in the college ministry. I felt like I was part of something…And best of all, I did not feel different, excluded, or sitting on the outside looking in.
I don’t know when next we would have to move…I am guessing that three years from now the cards may shift when my husband completes his residency. The entire map of the U.S. will be at our fingertips and we would be able to pick, choose and refuse where we want to live.
Through these major life moves I have learnt that God always provides people in our lives who will be our cheerleaders, and support. The key is that we must remain open to what He provides. We have to put ourselves out there to get caught. And we have to be proactive and be bold about what we want.
The beauty about life is that we have no idea who our next best friends would be. We do not know who will enter our life never to depart…We don’t know who else is out there that we are going to love…and is going to love us. We do not know who is going to be our rock of support when we need it most. What we know is who we have in our life at this very moment. And sometimes we grow so content with our circle, that we forget that our circle was meant to expand. But rest assured that you have a lot of friends…many of whom you have yet meet :-)…once you keep yourself open.
As you go, entering into unfamiliar territory, go brave… knowing that God will unveil many wonderful surprises that will bless your life more than you imagine…They called friends.