Wait… who are you again?

I’m asked one question more often than any other: “When are you coming back?”

Uh… I dunno.

My primary goal before leaving Taiwan is to pay off my credit card debt, and that should be accomplished by the end of this year. I’d also like to get in quite a bit of traveling while I’m in this part of the world, primarily because I don’t see myself ever coming back. Never say never, but that’s the thought right now. After Taiwan, I may attempt a 1-2 year stint in Australia, either working or getting my masters. That, too, is up in the air, especially because the masters would depend almost entirely on what kind of financial aid I could scrounge up.

Coming here, there were two main fears that clogged my mind and made it hard to leave. One, I was terrified that my finances would be in epic peril; I quit a full-time job with a 401k and benefits. I moved from all I knew to a culture and a country that was unlike anything I’d ever known. What if I couldn’t make enough money? What if I couldn’t send money home? What if my debt increased? What if I had to move back and find a new job in the States, in an economy unkind to job seekers?

Money is superficial, though. The concern that wrapped around me like a wet blanket and refused to let me go was that I would be forgotten. Out of sight, out of mind. People can’t just pick up the phone and call or text me. I can’t meet up for lunch, nor can I grab a cup of hot chocolate while the other person drinks coffee. That sort of thing.

It reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. I remember the flight from Los Angeles to Beijing; I was sitting in my window seat, staring to my right out at the night, the bright cabin reflected back at me in the window. I was alternately thrilled at the unknown ahead – the adventure ahead – and near a full-blown panic attack that threatened to explode out of me in tears and high-pitched wails. My seatmate would likely prefer sitting next to a family of teething toddlers over my wide-eyed, rocking self. Thankfully, I rocked myself to sleep and managed to spend the majority of the 12-hour flight eyes closed, mouth agape, neck crooked awkwardly so that my head could rest on the cabin wall.

This isn’t a sad story I wanted to tell so that people would feel sorry for me. It’s just the truth: move abroad, and relationships will change. I just didn’t know how mine would.

In 22 days I will celebrate 5 months here. I’ve eliminated nearly $6,000 in debt. If all goes according to plan, October or November will find me making my final payment toward my credit card debt. Celebrations will be had. So that concern, the financial one? Completely unnecessary.

Even more unnecessary was my lack of faith in my relationships. Sure, they’ve changed. But shame on me for doubting the people in my life. Thanks to Skype, email and Facebook, not to mention some very expensive text exchanges, the world feels a little smaller. In fact, some of my relationships are stronger, and I often feel buoyed by the love I feel from all the way over here. Just yesterday I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face, and I felt as though I was going through my day enveloped in a bear hug.

I don’t believe anyone is fearless. If they are, they’re a liar. I still have my fair share of things that scare me, from the trivial to the major. What a relief, though, that my two biggest fears when I moved here turned out to be baseless.

Thanks for proving me wrong. Don’t worry – I’ll be back soon, even if it’s just to visit. You’re also welcome to come any time to Taiwan to see me, even if it’s just a quick stop before you continue on to Australia.

Happy New Year with sprinkles on top,
Mandy

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