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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  • Lacey in the City
    April 11, 2013 at 5:36 AM

    So I’ve absolutely missed this entire new chapter because I’m silly and don’t use google reader, just my blogroll, and since Dixie Creek Farm hasn’t updated in a while, I thought you were just on hiatus. UNTIL you left a comment to me and then to Nicole about London and I was like, “Wait a seconddddd…” So I spent last night and this morning catching up on your amazing new adventure, and I am beyond stoked for you!!! What an incredible opportunity, not only for you and Cory, but for Lex. I cannot wait to keep posted on this next step!!

  • Kerry
    March 31, 2013 at 12:18 AM

    Reading your posts is liking reading a really good novel that you just can’t put down!! One thing I am so grateful for these past couple of years is finding you and your blog :) It has been a happy place that I always like to visit xo

  • Janette Johanson
    March 21, 2013 at 2:45 AM

    Isn’t life funny how it all works out– in the moment we never seem to understand why things are happening the way they are but the best part is getting to learn from it and of course appreciate the outcomes. I can’t believe you gave up your Dad’s Christmas gift– you were SO close!!! I LOVE surprises, like More than anything— I was trying to do Valentine pictures of the kids while Erik was away at Army drill one weekend and when he was saying goodnight to the kids on the phone, Ryan says– we got our pictures done today!! I was like– OMIGOSH! Erik was curious and I had to tell him– I’m a horrible liar. But– if you want to surprise me, you can show up on my door step before you LEAVE and give me a hug goodbye. Just an idea. hah

  • Jo
    March 21, 2013 at 1:14 AM

    Living in limbo sucks! Can’t wait for you to get to this side of the pond though

  • Impulsive Addict
    March 20, 2013 at 10:47 AM

    It still makes me sad. I mean, when you live in Tennessee, I have a chance to meet you. With you in another country, probably not. Can you visit Oklahoma in the future? We can go for a run. Or maybe you can “wog” with me. I’m more of a walk/jogger right now but MAYBE I’ll turn into a runner. I’ll let you know. I’ll even buy you donuts. You have to carb up to run 2 miles with me you know. Ok, maybe we’ll run 3 miles. But just for you. And bring L. She can keep E entertained.

    I want to live vicariously through your life too. Is that weird? I think it is.

  • Mrs. Match
    March 20, 2013 at 9:30 AM

    Well said, especially about delayed gratification. I can relate that to trying to get pregnant our first time around. If we had gotten pregnant on the first try, I wouldn’t have cherished every minute of being pregnant with my daughter. And then when we started trying again, I’m glad it took a few months, because I needed more time to heal emotionally and physically.
    I’m so excited for what the future holds for you guys, and like Mimi I will be living vicariously through your adventures. If you end up loving it there and staying, maybe we’ll come visit! ;-)

  • Macey
    March 20, 2013 at 6:42 AM

    Totally weird for me. Like, I get what you’re saying, but I mean, for me, I don’t think I could do it. I’d be too stressed and stuff. I’m a nerd like that.
    But I’m just so freaking excited for you!! I want to come with you!! I’m living vicariously through you.
    Okay, so you have to get to the logistics. Selling your cars?? Buying a place over there?? How’s that work?? I wanna know!! And you won’t ever eat fast food probably…you’ll get a curry! I swear they always say that! Take away curry. Which I think is like if you were to get Chinese take out here….but it’s curry. Now I’m wondering if you’ll have curry stomach issues and poop in public? Wink wink. LOL
    Sorry. I just love that story and every once in a while I think of it for no reason and I bust out laughing.
    Are you going to have to drive? OMG, good luck with that. LOL You’ll ride the tube! That’s it! The tube!!!

  • Emmymom
    March 20, 2013 at 4:51 AM

    Oh girl I understand this all too well!! In my husband’s job the joke is not to tell people where you are moving until the moving truck has made it to your new house (and even then it could change) as it changes that often as to where you may be going next. We usually have about 8 weeks notice when it comes time to is all, so yea, understand that limbo. I have gotten really good at living like I am going to be where I am forever as otherwise I would just never “live” anywhere.

  • Erin P
    March 20, 2013 at 4:23 AM

    Wow! Never realized how stressful waiting for that okay would have been. I wish I worked in a career that had an opportunity like that. How much personal stuff will you guys hold onto? I read that you mentioned selling off your stuff.

  • Connie Weiss
    March 20, 2013 at 12:51 AM

    Yes, you were given a gift! Time is precious no matter how it’s spent.

    I felt the same way when we lived in Utah and the space program was cancelled. Keith hadn’t been let go yet…but it was coming, we just didn’t know when. It’s a hard way to live.

  • Shaylynn
    March 20, 2013 at 12:45 AM

    Ralph Waldo Emerson is my hero, fyi.

    I’m thankful you’re out of limbo, mostly because I am kinda in a limbo frame of mind right now, and it’s a miserable place to be.

    I definitely would have told every kid on the block. Definitely.