How It Started/How It’s Going

How It Started

It began with three pro/con lists.

When this overseas opportunity became a real possibility, I mentioned to my mom that I wished my dad was here so I could run it by him. A few days later, she helpfully replied that she thought she knew what he would have suggested. Make a pro/con list. Put it on paper and the answer will likely be clear.

We created concise ones for us as individuals. The eternal summer was a pro for me, whereas too hot went on Seb’s con list. I would lose my job and career identity but gain invaluable time with my kids while they are small. Seb would get a career boost, but lose out on some of his cherished activities, like a dedicated season to ski and a recreational softball league.

Then we created a longer one for our family. While the sides look matched in length, we ultimately decided to choose the bigger life and take a chance.

How It’s Going

When looking at this list now, it is clear that it was written by our pre-pandemic selves, and yet certain items hint at realities we sensed even before lockdowns and travel bans were part of our vernacular.

Travel isn’t a thing anymore, which means we haven’t visited many of the places we anticipated and also that Seb has been around far more often than we expected. It turns out that much essential business can in fact be conducted over teleconference. The difficulty in visiting home got upgraded to impossibility. We are unable to leave Singapore unless we plan to not come back.

While the global pandemic has slowed the pace of many things with treasured traditions being paused more often than not, our loved ones have continued to get engaged, married, and give birth to babies. That said, the particularities of the pandemic have shifted so much of this. Many people are opting for small intimate affairs or asking well-wishers to send their love from a safe distance. And some events, like the graduation of my former students this past June, went digital which meant I was allowed to tune in from afar.

Almost all the cons to coming overseas were interpersonal ones, and the reality is that many people in the states have geographical proximity to friends and family but prudence or interest in the collective well being of their community keeps them apart all the same. It makes revisiting this list a bit surreal to think that maybe we’d feel just as isolated if we were still in New Jersey.

And while some pros haven’t panned out – my children’s Mandarin exposure is certainly far more recreational than immersive – the ones that have held up have been monumental.

As a woman who isn’t working at the moment who still has hands-on help, I feel something akin to survivor’s guilt thinking of how different my life would be if we had passed on this opportunity. Teaching remotely with two kids under five at home would have had me stretched to an unprecedented extent. There are few optimal solutions to the balancing act working mothers face at the moment, which makes whatever they are doing to get by a good enough one. I have zero judgments and infinite respect for anyone who is something getting enough of it done. If it helps to hear it, by Singaporean standards, many of you are doing the full time work of three people.

As we enter the final quarter of our time abroad, I have started going through my days as a collector of sights and sounds and moments. I am constantly grateful for the capacity I have to be present during this time. My mental load has never been lighter and at times I feel almost boring, but never bored. It’s a privilege and I am more than fully aware of it.

So how’s it going? Well, it’s different than we expected for sure. But for me, even if time affluence was the only pro left standing on the list, it would be more than sufficient.

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