Please welcome today’s guest writer, Sarah Fennema. Sarah graduated from Calvin in 2012 with an engineering degree. After a brief stint in grad school at the University of Illinois, she moved to New Zealand to work as a structural engineer.
Somewhere far away there is a collection of boxes and containers covered with faded sheets. The collection contains rich memories from my years at college and grad school. There are binders with color-coded notes and copious doodles. There are all sorts of baking dishes and pots and pans. There is a set of twin extra-long bedding with bright green and brown stripes. There is a large collection of engineering textbooks and codes. All those things that I thought I might find useful again. Now they sit under a sheet.
Whenever I’ve gone home for a visit, I’ve thought I should really clean it all up. It’s silly. I graduated from grad school two years ago now. Engineering library aside, the items don’t have much value. I should probably sell them or give them away. But part of me just can’t. I can’t part with this collection of American things.
I live on the opposite side of the world now in Christchurch, New Zealand. I moved here noncommittally as an intern at a structural engineering firm. Everything about the job felt temporary. I committed to working in New Zealand for two months after a study abroad trip. Why not? It was only two months. Then I could sort my real life out and settle somewhere.
At the end of my two months, my managers asked me if I was interested in staying longer. Why not? What’s another year? I could postpone real life.
When the next year came around, I was asking my managers if I could stay longer. I had created a life here in New Zealand. I met my boyfriend. I found a loving church family. I felt comfortable at work.
Every time, I’ve committed to a set end date. I’ve made a conscious decision to be here for one more year or six more months. Somehow that makes it different. That makes it okay, in my mind at least, to leave my collection of American things. I can’t do anything with them until I know for sure where I’ll end up.
I often marvel at others around me who are “true” immigrants, people who sold off their collections of things and moved full force. But at the same time, I’m envious of them too. I wish that I could find out what the future looked like for longer than a one year spurt. This constant state of getting closer to change affects my attitude too. I find myself committing to church half-heartedly because the idea of leaving is always in the back of my mind. I’m unwilling to develop friendships as fully as I might to prevent the hurt of walking away later. If I knew or guessed that I would be here for another five or ten years, I might be more willing, more ready. As it is, I find myself questioning what my “real” life will look like.
But of course, that’s a ludicrous statement. My life is just as real, just as full, and just as much mine as it ever has been and ever will be. I may not know what it will look like in a year, but I know that God knows. The fact that He knows should be enough for me too.
Real life is messy. Real life is stop-and-start like my life right now. Real life is full of changes, full of highs and lows. Real life isn’t about knowing what happens next. Real life isn’t about feeling settled. Real life is about loving God and loving others. Plain and simple.
Next time I go home, I might look through my boxes. But I won’t worry about them too much. Eventually, they’ll find a home. I might even be there with them.