Confessions of a Transition Junkie

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“My roots are like those of the ficus elastica, extending over rivers and creeks, crossing borders and creating bridges.

By Stephanie Motz Skinner | Twitter: @stephmotz

My roots are like those of the ficus elastica, extending over rivers and creeks, crossing borders and creating bridges. My roots are planted in Choluteca, my small home town surrounded by the blue mountains, in Honduras. But they stretch far north towards that arctic chilly air that blows throughout the year in Canada. And this is where we find ourselves right now, chewing on sweet corn and barbecued steak on lakeside porches. My transition here, as a new immigrant, has been surprisingly painless thanks to the support of friends and family. But experience has taught me that transitions are not always easy. They can be exciting, but also stressful.

I remember the first time I was confronted with a difficult transition. I was six years old and my family had just returned to Honduras after living as refugees in Canada for four years. It was fun at first, because it felt like a new experience to me. We got to live with grandma and grandpa again, and my brothers and I loved to run through the narrow corridors of their house and play with our cousins every day. We picked mangoes from our neighbour’s tree, danced in our underwear under the warm rain and destroyed dozens of piñatas. But, after a few months, I was thrust into a new school environment and the differences became more evident to me. I didn’t fit in easily. Other children teased me and I felt out of place. So, after a few weeks I realised I didn’t like Honduras any more and I told my parents I was ready to return to Canada.

But this never happened.

In the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald, “You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

I quickly learned I couldn’t have it all. In Honduras we had family and great weather, but we lacked security. We weren’t allowed to play outside the big walls surrounding our backyard.

In Canada, I had friends. My brothers and I could ride our bikes in the neighbourhood and have picnics in parks without having to look over our shoulders all the time. I wanted the best of both places. My heart was torn. As time passed, and our lives continued, Honduras became more familiar, until one day it felt like home. As I grew, the memories of Canada became distant, but the desire to return remained. It was a place I longed to rediscover and I had constructed so many wonderful ideas in my mind about Canada.

When I finally returned in 2006, however, I went through a similar experience to the one I had when I was six years old. This time, I was an international student, but it wasn’t the homecoming I’d anticipated. In fact, I quickly realised that Canada wasn’t home at all. Once again, I felt like giving up and running back home, but my father wouldn’t allow me to. In the end I stayed for three years. I made some life-altering relationships and began to fit in once more. I started recognising smells and tastes and Canadian experiences stopped being foreign to me. I remembered why, as a child, I’d loved Canada so much.

I also learned the hardships of living here and being away from family.

I’ve learned with every transition that although change can be hard, once I get through the first rough patches, it’s usually a rewarding experience. Transitions stretch me out of my comfort zone. They force me to grow and take a good look at my life and who I am as a person. The change of scenery helps me discover what things are important to me in life.  Travel and transition have helped me appreciate the diversity of the world as I realise that there’s so much I can learn from the way other people live their lives. It has also made me more curious about the world.

Transition can be exhilarating, even addictive, and sometimes I have to stop myself from running away when life becomes tough. However, transitions have taught me that while I may be able to escape a difficult situation, I can never run away from myself. Sometimes, it can be confusing to know where I belong. Maybe my homeward journey will be a lifelong pursuit, but I’m still thankful for my family, for the friends I’ve made, and the ones I have yet to meet.

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My dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to hear:

  • Do you feel like a global citizen?
  • What have you learned about transition in your life?
  • How do you plug into this concept of engaging in community when you feel that your roots are stretched all over the place? How do you define community?
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About Stephanie:

I believe in the power of storytelling. I’m a photographer and writer for Fakeleft. Together with my husband, we love sharing stories of courage, of strength in the face of adversity, of triumph and hope. I truly believe that by partnering with others who want to bring change and justice to our world, we can actually make a difference. I’m learning to walk in my nascent faith, but it’s not always easy. It’s an interesting journey.

I am currently living in Montreal, Canada, but my heart is everywhere. I’m a proud Latina from Choluteca, Honduras. I wish I had a Latino accent. My favourite meal is dessert and my favourite sport is tanning. I blog at fakeleft.com and tweet at @stephmotz.

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Stephanie Motz Skinner
believe in the power of storytelling. I’m a photographer and writer for Fakeleft. Together with my husband, we love sharing stories of courage, of strength in the face of adversity, of triumph and hope. I truly believe that by partnering with others who want to bring change and justice to our world, we can actually make a difference. I’m learning to walk in my nascent faith, but it’s not always easy. It’s an interesting journey. I am currently living in Montreal, Canada, but my heart is everywhere. I’m a proud Latina from Choluteca, Honduras. I wish I had a Latino accent. My favourite meal is dessert and my favourite sport is tanning. I blog at fakeleft.com and tweet at @stephmotz.
Stephanie Motz Skinner
Stephanie Motz Skinner

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Stephanie Motz Skinner

Comments

  1. So proud of you my saps!

    • Stephanie says:

      Baha! Hasta ahorita leo esto. Si no fuera por el “saps” no sabria quien es. Proud of you too bella. Miss you!

  2. neritia says:

    “Transitions stretch me out of my comfort zone. They force me to grow and take a good look at my life and who I am as a person. The change of scenery helps me discover what things are important to me in life.”

    This whole post is such a tribute to the nomads, the travelers, the immigrants and those who are home too!

    There are days when I wish I was more mobile and less rooted. Then again, it’s always a “more or less” thing! When I was neither “here nor there” I longed to be rooted.

    Awesome post!

  3. Ah, you know I relate and agree whole heartedly

  4. I have such a long answer to this. My husband is in the military and I have been out-of-place for 10 years. He’s been gone so much and our years have often been rocky so that I don’t always feel home when we’re home together. There’s a longggg… story….here: http://predatory-lies.com/2012/08/14/what-will-i-do-if-i-ever-grow-up/

    • stephanie says:

      Wow. What a beautiful post, Abby. Thanks so much for sharing it. I feel like I can relate to the whole “no steady career” and having to find new friends and community all over again. It’s really hard to start our business from scratch. again. But, I’m learning to lean on the things that remain constant in my life – God, my husband and my family (even if it is through skype). I pray that you continue to find the strength for every new beginning. I really appreciate that you shared your story.

  5. fiona lynne says:

    So much about this that I can relate to. I’m British but have lived the last five years overseas, first in Belgium, now in Luxembourg. I married a Danish man and suddenly the concept of “home” is a confusing one. I know we won’t be here forever, which sometimes makes it hard to really settle here for the time we are in Luxembourg. There’s the temptation to always look forward (or backwards). But for now I feel like I gain more from these transitions than I lose.

    • Stephanie says:

      Glad you could relate to this, Fiona. I totally know what you mean about wanting to look forward or backwards. Even this move to Canada feels temporary to us – James grew up in Africa, so he doesn’t really feel Canadian and he’s always wanted to live in the UK. But even though we might not be here forever, I still want to try to live in the present during this season rather than dwell on where I might go in the future or where I’ve been in the past. Let’s see how it goes and how long we last. Hehe. Thanks for sharing a bit about your experience with transition! xox.

  6. Sometimes I really just want to have it all … I want all my friends in one place. I want to be able to drop in for tea with my mom. I want to hang out with Neritia in Cape Town AND Mei-liang in Taipei AND I want to be here, right where I am. You know it.

    I was grumbling a bit again one time in my heart and I had the sense to bust open my ideas of what “home” is. Not one place, one country or the people I am with … but ALL of it. I am home now on this earth. And also not.

    I love your post. It speaks to my globalgirl heart. And I know that itch to move, move, move very well. That’s why I am so thankful for travel.

    Love you …
    xo

    • Stephanie says:

      Yup! I’m thankful for travel and I’m thankful that I can plug into community right here when my life feels nomadic. We can sort of find a sense of “home” here as we share our stories and relate to each other. There is a sense of consistency. And I’m thankful for skype – it makes this global life a bit easier.

      Love you too! xoxo.

  7. “My roots are like those of the ficus elastica, extending over rivers and creeks, crossing borders and creating bridges. My roots are planted in Choluteca, my small home town surrounded by the blue mountains, in Honduras. But they stretch far north towards that arctic chilly air that blows throughout the year in Canada. And this is where we find ourselves right now, chewing on sweet corn and barbecued steak on lakeside porches. ”

    I’m drooling ( slightly jealous) over how beautifully written these first lines are.

    Your words are like sweet corn, Stephy. I’ve missed your voice and your stories. Thanks for opening up while you are in a season of transition.

    xoxo,
    Teen

    • Stephanie says:

      Thanks dearest Tina! It means a lot to me that you would like this post. I love and admire your writing. It’s been hard connecting during this season of transition, but I loved your post about Nemo (and how cool that his name was Nemo – made for the coolest title!). I’m so glad you decided to embark on that adventure. Sounds like you had fun! Love ya! xoxo.

  8. Stephanie, I can relate. I live between the US and Burundi, as you know. Two nearly opposite places / cultures… and moving between them annually with 2 kids in tow always presents opportunities to be stretched. I have learned that the US is my heart’s home, and it is okay to say that out loud. But I have also learned things I love about my Burundian summers – space for reading, a sabbath from cooking / cleaning / driving, sweet pineapple, lunch dates with Claude… So I lean into those like a seasonal delicacy. I try to embrace each place in its season… an not complain too much.

    But I believe change is good, full of opportunities for great growth and that the awkwardness of liminal space produces deep goodness in our character!

    Enjoy Canada. Sorry we are missing each other on yet another continent… let’s keep trying to connect!

    • stephanie says:

      Thanks, Kelley! You totally get what I’m talking about. And I love this: “I try to embrace each place in its season.” That’s what I’m learning and trying to do. It’s hard because, when the excitement of the transition fades, I begin to look at the grass on the other side of the fence, and then I want to be where I’m not. But this time, I’m trying to be more intentional about enjoying the place where I am. xoxo. Hope you are settling in OK in the U.S. and that you had an amazing summer in Burundi.

  9. Stephanie, that one line: “Transition can be exhilarating, even addictive, and sometimes I have to stop myself from running away when life becomes tough. However, transitions have taught me that while I may be able to escape a difficult situation, I can never run away from myself. ” THAT. I totally identify. I’ve been thinking of this more and more as I put down roots here, and learn that I’m not moving, there is no “next” for me and WHAT A WEIRD FEELING. I get this. Great essay, great work. (And would love to get together while you’re in our neck of the woods sometime!)

    • stephanie says:

      Yea. Wow. I think it will be really weird for us too, when we decide to put down roots somewhere. We are still “looking” and even this new move seems only temporary. But, in some ways, I’m actually looking forward to finding that place where we decide to make home.

      Congratulations on your book deal, Sarah. Thanks so much for reading this post. It means a lot to me. And I really hope that we can meet one day.

  10. This is a great story, Stephanie. I am an American and I lived in England for three years when I was in my early twenties. I loved it there but longed for home. I eventually moved back home but have always wanted to return and visit. We will someday.

    Your story is a good one!

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