I had not realized how much I had moved on until the end of my recent 3-week vacation in Australia.
It was great to catch up with old friends again. No doubt about that. However, there was something different this time. I couldn’t pinpoint exactly what it was. I just felt different – my outlook, thinking and perspective had changed dramatically. Especially, after having been through a multitude of changes in just a year in Washington, D.C., all of which have been positive. I felt a hundredfold more confident and self-assured compared to last year.
Trying to make sense of all that I was experiencing while I was in Australia, felt a tad overwhelming. I felt pulled in all sorts of directions. Finding the space to process my thoughts and emotions properly as I was trying to catch up with as many people as possible, was difficult. It also didn’t help that I was feeling under the weather some of the time. I ended up having to cancel certain meet-ups as I just needed to rest. During the entire 6 weeks when I was away in Singapore and Australia, I received several messages from friends in the USA asking when I was coming back and requesting to catch up. There were invitations to events and parties, as well as e-mail updates about new initiatives from some professionals. I found myself wanting to go back to the States yet wishing I could stay in Australia a bit longer, simultaneously. All in all, it was a very good trip albeit confusing. I knew that I needed to make the trip back in order to find some answers.
With certain close friends, there was a rekindling and deepening of the friendship as we shared how the past one year had been since I left for the USA. It was as if my being away for a year had brought a renewal of some sort into my old friendships as I related to them from a fresh perspective. It was refreshing. As I type this, a familiar quote by Elisabeth Foley comes to mind: The most beautiful discovery true friends make is that they can grow separately without growing apart. I realize that some of these friends are friends for life despite the distance and even if we don’t get to communicate for lengths of time.
There were also some new friends from Melbourne that I had gotten to know a bit better last year just before I made the move to the States, whom I managed to catch up with. It was nice to get to know them a bit more this time round. Conversations on the whole were light-hearted and yet profound. 🙂
Memories of Australia, both the good and not so pleasant ones, flooded back into my mind during the entire trip. It was bittersweet. I realize that healing from our emotional hang ups and baggage is not a one time occurrence, but rather a process. What I have learnt is that having the courage to confront the negative emotions or reminders of the past head on, when they surface out of the blue is a necessity in order to be able to move forward successfully in life.
There is no more room for regrets in my life. I’ve moved on fully from my entire past. I have this abiding assurance that God will make something beautiful from my past mistakes, losses, failures and hurts even if I can’t see it right now. He works for the good of those who love Him (Romans 8:28). He sees the big picture. It is through the hard times when our character is pruned and when real healing occurs. We are being refined like silver so that we can achieve even more for His glory in the future.
Looking back at all the chats I had with friends during my trip, I realized that I was processing the transitions I had gone through over the past one year in America. When I departed Melbourne in June last year, I knew I needed a change. My original plan was to take a break for 2 years and then return to Australia. However, after 6 months of being at Gallaudet, I wasn’t so sure about that anymore. I was confused. What was heartening was that my close friends encouraged me to follow my heart.
One friend asked me, “Will you come back to Australia? Do you feel pulled in the opposite direction?” My honest reply to her, “At this stage I don’t know. It’s so far away. I can’t see the future. I am open to returning in the future if I am meant to but not for a few years at least. And yes, I do feel pulled in the opposite direction because there are so many opportunities in the States that have come my way. I feel a whole lot happier with life.”
Attempting to find my place in the Australian Deaf Community has always been a struggle and a source of anxiety. I say this strictly from the personal standpoint of an Asian Deaf immigrant. I recognize that perspectives can differ so my experience is just unique to me and I am not speaking for anyone else. Back then, I didn’t know why I found it so difficult. Now I am able to understand and make sense of my experiences after much analyzing on my part. I connect extremely well with specific individuals within the Australian Deaf Community and have managed to develop solid friendships which I will always hold dear. However, I never fully found my place in that community for reasons I will not delve into.
So, imagine my surprise when I set foot on Gallaudet soil last August to find that it was SO easy to fit into the Deaf Community there right from day one. I expected to take some time to adjust but it wasn’t hard at all. I didn’t even have to try. I just fit in. 🙂 I feel at completely at ease and comfy in my own skin at every Deaf event or social function I go to. And, the best part is that all my anxiety, simply vanished. I no longer struggle with it. Being in a life-giving environment really makes a huge difference. One year at Gallaudet University has transformed me into an individual with a healthy self-concept and a strong sense of identity. It doesn’t mean that my life is free from challenges and adversity. It is just that I now adopt a healthier approach to dealing with issues and have cultivated a sense of resilience.
I must say that although living in Australia was a challenging time for me, I have no regrets. In fact, I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to be able to live my life in three different countries – Singapore, Australia and America because all the experiences, the good as well as the bad, have moulded me into the person I am today. Looking back, I can clearly see God’s hand in my life guiding me through the ups and downs. He has been by my side all along. 🙂
Another friend shared her honest opinion after hearing of my experiences. She said, “I can see you staying on in America for the next couple of years. If you return to Australia to live, it would be like going backwards since you’ve already made so much progress. It will be hard for you to come back. If you choose to come back, you need a very good reason to do so.” I know and I agree. 🙂 A different friend said this to me, “As long as you’re happy, I’m happy.”
I am blessed to have friends who encourage me to grow and who support my personal and professional development. They are genuinely happy for my successes and are ready to lend a listening ear during the lowest points of my life, and vice versa. Such friends are hard to come by. They are like gold! 🙂
By the end of my trip to Australia, I was raring to go back to the States. When I logged into Facebook the moment I landed at the Washington Dulles International Airport, I found that a friend had tagged me in this photo.
What a pleasant surprise and a nice welcome back! 🙂 And, what an honor to represent Gallaudet University! I must get my hands on the actual catalogue some time as I haven’t seen it yet.
It has been lovely bumping into friends on campus since I returned, as well as meeting new faces. I’m absolutely pumped up for my second academic year at Gallaudet University. Can’t wait to start classes on Monday! 🙂
All I can say is, I don’t know what the future holds but I know WHO holds the future! 😉
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
~ Philippians 3:13-14