An Open Letter to the Girl who Ran Away: A Moving Abroad Cautionary Tale

You arrived in January, steamrolling your way into our life, full of excitement but lacking experience. You thought this was going to be a working holiday, but it was not to be. I’ve called you a girl in the title because, at 25 years of age, you still aren’t able to fend for yourself. Others clocked you from the beginning – you were a princess. I’m not sure we can really put all of the blame onto you; after all, we are also products of our surroundings. Anyway, I gave you the benefit of the doubt. I showed you round, told you how things work in this sometimes backwards country. I invited you to spend time with me, we went on a few outings, I introduced you to my friends and family. Perhaps I did a little too much for you. You became dependent on me. You could no longer fend for yourself. You made no attempts to meet other people, no attempt to learn the language. I know it’s not easy but 10 minutes a day on Duolingo isn’t enough. I tried to encourage you – I even gave you my books so you could study. Others reached out and tried to give you advice about how you could meet people but it was all met with unenthusiastic indifference. You seemed to want me to do everything for you but that’s not what I’m here for. I’m not your mother/sister/childminder/girlfriend. I have my own life here that I’ve built up from nothing. I didn’t invite you to come and live with me; you just turned up and we had to make the best of the situation.

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Because doggy playdates are the best!

For 7 weeks or so, it was going okay, although your clinginess and constant complaining about everything was starting to get a little much. This is Italy – things don’t always work as they should but we love it anyway. Then came the final straw. It was Friday evening, I was leaving work and asked if you wanted to come with me to a friend’s house for a doggy play-date. You said no, you wanted to Skype your family. Okay, not a problem. To be honest, it was a bit of a relief to have some time to myself. So I headed off to get the four-legged maniac ready to meet her boyfriend. As I was going home, my friend called to let me know that there was a Six Nations rugby match that evening. What?! How was it possible that I didn’t know?! Well, that was my evening sorted. I settled down for a few beers and rugby talk before coming home at about 1 a.m.

1453034_10156688101025565_5550020_oThe next morning, you got up, came into the kitchen, got your breakfast and went straight back to your room to eat. Weird but whatever, I have no time or energy for silly games like this. I got my things together and went to spend the night with friends and family. You didn’t even come out of your room to say bye. After a lovely time, I returned Sunday evening ready for work Monday. You were still sulking. We tried talking about it but it just went round in circles – you admitted that you were not my responsibility and then, in the next breath, you accused me of abandoning you all weekend. You then shut yourself in your room and cried. Things began to deteriorate. You shut yourself off from the rest of the world. You no longer interacted with the animals that you had loved at the beginning. You accused me of taking over the flat. You said you felt uncomfortable in the flat because it was full of my stuff and you just had your room. But this is my home. I live here. You came for a temporary period. You brought one suitcase of clothes. What stuff did you want to have around the flat? Without my stuff, you would have had to buy everything or you wouldn’t have even been able to make toast. You started to seem rather ungrateful.  My sister even tried to help you out; she gave you advice about how to deal with being in a new country and meeting new people but you did nothing to improve your situation.

Finally, you ran away. You packed your bags and like a child, you left without saying goodbye. You sent me messages about how everything was my fault. You refused to take responsibility for anything. In your head, your actions were justified because you were living in your own reality. You didn’t realise that the only person you were hurting was yourself. By running away, you only ostracised  yourself further. My life goes on as it was before. you tried to make me look bad but others have seen you for what you truly are. My reputation has remained intact.

I watched a video the other day by Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski. He explains that the only way lobsters can grow is by outgrowing their shells, casting them off and growing a completely new one. This process leaves them vulnerable to predators but without it they wouldn’t grow. Your shell had started to feel uncomfortable but, instead of casting it off and allowing yourself to grow, you ran away. You ran back home, back to your safety net. You will never grow in this way. Moving abroad is all about discovering who you are but you bailed before you had a chance to find that person.

As unpleasant as this experience was, it also allowed me to grow. It’s important to learn from every experience and you taught me a lot about who I should and shouldn’t let into my inner circle.

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7 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Girl who Ran Away: A Moving Abroad Cautionary Tale

    • Thanks for the kind words. Luckily I wrote this from my sister’s perspective. I didn’t actually have to put up with the craziness – I have had more than my fair share in the past!

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