As we prepare to fly back to Tunis next week, I’ve been reflecting on the amazing summer we’ve enjoyed. Cramming a year’s worth of appointments and quality time with loved ones into 2 months was exhausting, but it was exactly what I needed. It was a lesson in what’s important in life and what “home” really means.
I thought I’d have a more dramatic feeling coming back to Kansas, but almost immediately, I felt comfortable and life seemed back to normal. Well, normal except that I appreciated it more. We didn’t plan any big trips or fancy outings. We went to a few sporting events. We visited our favorite restaurants. We took a couple weekend trips to nearby AirBNBs. But the thing that sticks out most in my mind are the little moments I used to take for granted.
Nothing is better than hearing my kids laughing together with their friends.
Nothing tops standing around the kitchen island helping make bierocks with my dad and Kay.
You can’t beat drinking a cold beer, sitting outside, and having deep conversations with friends until 1 am.
I can’t think of anywhere I’d rather be than playing card games and watching the Olympics with my mom and Frank.
This summer Teddy built birdhouses, drove the golf cart around the farm, and won an art contest which resulted in a gift card for an icecream sundae so big he couldn’t even finish it. Penelope played doll house with grandma, decorated sugar cookies, and got a million “makeovers.” Justin and I got unlimited free babysitting and caught up on date nights, even if it was just getting to run errands alone.
This summer I’ve felt content in a way I haven’t felt in a long time. I wasn’t searching for the next adventure. I wasn’t snapping and posting pictures of every moment. I was just present, in the moment, enjoying the company of people I love.
Tunisia feels like home.
Kansas feels like home.
North Carolina feels like home.
Home is not a location. Home is the people who surround you.
Last summer, before we went abroad, I remember a desperate, clingy feeling. No amount of time I had left with my friends was enough. I was worried being apart for 10 months would lessen our connection. This week I don’t feel that way. I am at peace. I will enjoy the moments I have left here knowing that the people I love will still love me when I’m thousands of miles away. I can feel secure to enjoy my year in Tunisia.
We still need to decide if we are signing on for a 3rd year at ACST, a decision we need to make by October. At the moment I’m leaning towards yes, but nothing is set in stone. We’ll see how we feel this August and September and make the best decision for our family. If we decide to stay, next summer will probably be very similar to this one so we’ve had discussions about what we would change if we were to do it again. My thoughts are:
- I think it was helpful to have a calendar that we shared with everyone so expectations and logistics were set. We shared time as fairly and evenly as we could. Instead of a paper calendar, next summer, I need to set it up using Google so people can see changes and have access to it when needed.
2. We might consider building in “recovery days.” This summer we literally had something on the calendar Every. Single. Day. The problem with that is, kids (and adults for that matter) can only take so much of a good thing before hitting a breaking point and getting tired and grumpy. There were times I wanted to just relax and have time to read a book or take a nap, but I felt guilty doing that because that was taking away time from someone I had promised it to. I also found myself thinking, “I can’t have another drink and stay up too late because I’ll be too hungover for the activities I have planned tomorrow.” I probably spread myself too thin at times and worried a bit too much about keeping other people happy- something I’ll try to balance better in the future.
Other than that, I can’t complain. I’ve done enough talking, laughing, playing, and eating to last me through the next ten months! I’m excited to be back in Tunis on Wednesday now that I know what to expect. I have friends, parties, holidays, and adventures waiting for me in my second home. There may be unexpected restrictions and complications with Covid again this year, but I have a renewed sense of lightheartedness to carry me through. This summer was a lesson in enjoying the simple things in life, and my goal is to keep living with gratitude even while I’m working or just hanging out at home. Pretty cool how time away can put things into perspective.