Expat Life

Living In Limbo: The Expat Waiting Game

Making the decision to move overseas was easy; waiting to hear if we’d been approved for an assignment was the beginning of the hard part. I’m sure this process differs for everyone who decides they’d like to try working for their company in another part of the world. Some people aren’t even looking for an overseas exchange when it gets offered to them, and then there are those that may wait years before an opportunity comes up. For us, the expat waiting game lasted a little less than eight months.

My mom describes this period of time as “living in limbo”. It’s a spot-on assessment. Your dubious future makes you reluctant to commit to anything for fear that you’ll have to renege when you move. You can’t buy anything, renew your gym membership, offer to throw a baby shower, or plan a summer vacation. Anything that isn’t in the immediate future is out of bounds. It brings a whole new meaning to the phrase, ‘live each day like there’s no tomorrow.’ The most frustrating part of this period for me was that even though we were 90% sure we were moving, that nagging 10% of doubt prevented me from getting started on things like putting the house on the market and selling off our belongings. It truly felt like I sat, twiddling my thumbs, for eight whole months.

That’s not to say we weren’t getting information along the way – it just wasn’t solid, concrete news. We learned rather quickly that people are pretty indecisive when it comes to turning an employee into an expat. The first opportunity that was made available to us was Tokyo. Cory’s boss mentioned it to him fairly soon after Cory alerted his company that he was looking to make a move overseas with them. Cory had worked with that office earlier in the year with success, and his interviews with the head guys in Asia went exceptionally well. In our naivety, we got our hopes up because we thought this was a sure bet. We began telling family and close friends and preparing our house to go on the market, and then, through no fault of Cory’s, the deal fell through. We were pretty devastated, with the worst part being that we then had to retract our moving news with the people we had told so far. We tried not to let this experience taint our dreams of living abroad, but it was difficult, especially since there weren’t any other assignments available at the time.

It was a couple months later that Cory took a business trip to London. While he was there, it became clear that they could really use him in the Europe headquarters on a more permanent basis, and so our second round of negotiating began. We had learned a lesson from Tokyo, though – not to assume anything until it was in writing, and not to tell even one person until that time. It was really difficult not letting anything slip during those two months, especially at Christmas with our families, but at the same time it was exciting. We had this big secret all to ourselves!

I have to give credit to Lexie, too – she didn’t tell a single soul. When I was her age, I went with my mom to buy a Christmas gift for my dad. She told me it was very important that I didn’t slip up and tell him what it was. That secret nearly burned a hole through me. On Christmas morning I just couldn’t hold it in a second longer and blurted out, “It’s slippers, daddy!” just as he tore the first edge of the wrapping paper from the box. That Lexie was able to keep such monumental information private for over sixty days blows my mind. She is cut from a different cloth than her mother, that’s for sure.

By the end of January, my nails were bitten down to tiny nubs and I was starting to lose a significant amount of hair in the shower every morning. All we were waiting on was for the CEO of Europe to sign off on the deal and we would be in, but it was taking forever. Then, on the first day of February, like we hadn’t been waiting what felt like an entire lifetime for this bit of news, Cory’s boss casually told him over lunch that we’d been approved to move to London. Getting an official, this-is-not-going-to-change-unless-the-universe-explodes decision was like seeing a rainbow after a storm, my favorite sign that everything always works out in the end.

Now that everything is moving along, I’m glad we had such a lengthy wait. And I’m even happy that our first deal fell through. If everything had happened immediately, I wouldn’t have such a profound appreciation for what we are about to do. There is definitely something to be said for delayed gratification and the patience it will teach you. I’m sure I’ll need that patience in spades as we attempt to close down our lives in Tennessee and start fresh ones on a new continent. There are trying times ahead, no doubt, but we are ready for them.

Living In Limbo: The Expat Waiting Game

Adopt the pace of nature; her secret is patience.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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