32 Comments
Nov 9, 2022Liked by Samantha Childress

I love that you shared this. There is so much that i CANNOT speak to because i have pretty much never had any real future plans or goals and i've never lived in a country other than the one I was born in - let alone been so far away from so many for so long. I used to get frustrated and feel like such a useless heap of flesh since i had no goals, but one good thing about it is your dreams are never really dashed - the parallel paths are always open, which can lead to a shitty "choice kills response" scenario but my point is that i have never grieved the loss of an imagined future the way you are. You are double grieving right now - your dad and your dreams. Yet you are still living - gossiping, playing games, watching the sky - these are all slow tasks that will help your healing (you need to be slow now) and i just bet every one of these activities will actually lead you to your next dream, it just doesn't feel like it right now. It goes against your nature, but give yourself some time to eschew thoughts of the future and put your fulll attention to the life you are lliving now - it is not as fruitless as you believe in your dark moments.

I've never been where you are tho, so I so appreciate you sharing your experience with all of us. And when I'm unmoored,, i go for walks in the prairie or woods, just like you did in CA - btw i LOVE that landscape. My stepdad's mom lived in San Mateo and she was surrounded by dry hills and gnarled white wood with birds that had similar shapes but different colors than the ones we have here.

Hugs to you lady!

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This is such a wonderful and wise comment, Trilety. Thank you so much for your thoughts. I'm trying to internalize the idea that what I'm doing now might be leading somewhere even if doesn't always feel like it. I was struck by you mentioning that you used to feel like a "useless heap of flesh" because you didn't have a particular goal in life, because I've been reflecting lately on how American values tend to make us believe that simply existing isn't enough--we not only have to work hard, we have to be striving for something in order to be worthwhile as humans, constantly trying to better ourselves. I'm working on deconstructing that idea for myself, and on giving myself permission to just be.

And I love that you love the dry California landscape as much as I do! The older I get, the more I take notice of the details of the landscape that never struck me as interesting as a kid. I've become obsessed with the flora. I noticed for the first time on this trip that we have buckeyes all over the place! Who knew.

Hugs right back at ya!

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Yes! The BUckeyes - my mom was entranced by those as well - such a cool landscape. And yes, "simply existing" - it is more than enough but we are never taught that, or it is poorly modeled. Here's to you being a model for others as you learn to just be even in times of slowness. Thanks for the reply.

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Nov 8, 2022Liked by Samantha Childress

“After a succession of flukes and decisions—both obviously important and seemingly small when I made them—I’ve awakened in a reality I neither recognize nor understand.” Ooft did I feel this!!! Idk how we regain our footing, only that, at some point, you look around at your new reality and start to recognize yourself again. Keep what makes your heart happy. Let the rest fall away. 💖

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Wise words, Skye! I’m doing my best to listen to my gut and to care for myself (which for me means knitting, my favorite movies, lots of chocolate and sparkling water) while I wait this out. ❤️

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Nov 8, 2022Liked by Samantha Childress

Just from reading this newsletter over the last couple of months gives me confidence in your "superpower" to find your way. All my best in this journey Sam.

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❤️❤️ thank you so much for these kind words, Vicki.

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Nov 14, 2022Liked by Samantha Childress

I think this is the beginning of your book. I, too, sometimes feel I'm flying by the seat of my pants, sometimes by choice and other times not. But I think everyone feels that way sometimes; whether we made detailed plans or not, we find ourselves on a train with no brakes that we chose to board at a time when our priorities may have been different, so we end up laying track and driving at the same time, building branches that we hope go somewhere.

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I love this train metaphor, Stephanie--it feels spot on. It’s a reminder to focus on the things that lie ahead and on what we can control. We may not be able to stop the train or get off, but we have some say in where it heads next...even if we have to figure that out while it keeps rolling down the tracks. Thanks so much for the wise words.❤️

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Nov 8, 2022Liked by Samantha Childress

I retired just over 5 yrs ago. I went from averaging 12hr days, mostly 7 days a week, to not much. I’m a driven person. I felt rudderless, unimportant & floundering. It sent me into a mild depression. After 6 months of this, I knew this couldn’t continue. I needed some structure, so I made a jobs to do list & those jobs were done Mon- Fri, with weekends off, so I could socialise with family/friends. I did a whole heap of my own research on healthier lifestyle choices & found time for some mindfulness projects. Tai Chi, Yoga, a more plant based diet, full of home grown vegetables & living in the moment. I also made some new friends in my new area I moved to, having a connection to my local community has made a big difference to my life. I’m feeling very different today & for the better.

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I really love this, Jodie, and I’m so glad to hear that you are in a better place now. It sounds like finding routine and structure were key for you. I’m going to try something similar this week—I think scheduling my activities/to-do list like a work day will make me feel more like a normal human and help me compartmentalize a little. Thank you for the idea. :)

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Samantha, it seems to me you are going through the typical expat phases. Phase 1: Wow, this country is so new and different, it's fascinating. Phase 2: Wow, this country's culture is so different and alien, it's overwhelming and intimidating. I don't feel at home here. I don't know if I can make it here. I prefer to be in my comfort zone back in America. If you can find some American expat friends in Cairo with whom to regularly compare notes, that will be an anchoring experience. Best, Jim

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Thanks for commenting, Jim! I think this is actually something distinct from expat anxiety—it’s less to do with Egyptian culture or even being in another country and more to do with the fact that the choice to live abroad has altered my life course in ways I couldn’t have foreseen. The good (and bad) news is that my community here is almost entirely American expats, so I have a good support system in that sense. Hope you are well!

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Sending you lots of love. I can relate to much of what you're going through... stay strong, you'll find your path <3

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Thank you, Sinù ❤️❤️ hope all is well!

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Doing my best to keep going in spite of some personal stuff going on which are affecting my creativity A LOT, although seeing you and all the other amazing women out here writing and sharing generously helps a lot! Keep going!

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Nov 15, 2022Liked by Samantha Childress

In other news, I think you'll get a kick out of this article: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/worlds-oldest-alphabet-sentence-head-lice-warning-2208101 :D

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This is both funny and amazing!! Isn't it weird how, even though technology progresses and cultures evolve, the human experience changes relatively little over the course of millennia? But who knows, maybe in the next thousand years they'll find a cure for head lice!

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Nov 15, 2022Liked by Samantha Childress

In a previous post, you mentioned that you had recently made "a scary, exciting, life-altering decision." !!! At the time, I had no idea what you meant, and I didn't want to pry, so I was planning to send you an email that said, "Congrats on your big decision! Congrats on having the guts to do something scary and exciting! I'm sure you made the right choice." I was *hoping* the life-altering decision was a book deal or freelancing contract. As I read this post, my heart breaks for you, and I want to say something tender and supportive. But maybe my original congratulations are better. :) I'm so sorry you have to go through this storm, but I admire you for weathering it so well. I'm sure you're making the right choices.

I admire you for having the courage to share the ups and the downs in your blog. As you say yourself, this post and "Escaping the Validation Vacuum" are both true; they just show the spectrum of emotions and perspectives you have (and everyone has a spectrum!). What makes your blog so exciting to read is that it isn't just about losing your dad, or global politics, or travel. Your blog shows how all of these things are woven into one life.

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Ha, how I wish it had been a book deal!! Hopefully someday :) I am so touched by this comment, Victoria. I have never been great about sharing my ups and downs in real life (not that I try to hide them, it just doesn't feel natural to me to blurt my feelings out all the time) and I'm finding it really liberating to write about them. It's strange, because writing about my feelings to an audience seems like it should be scarier than just telling them to a friend or family member. But reflecting on my ups and downs while I put them into words is therapeutic, and I tend to find that one I have a finished draft, I've thought about my feelings so much that I'm not scared to share them anymore.

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"Once I have a finished draft, I've thought about my feelings so much that I'm not scared to share them anymore." Interesting!

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Such a beautiful post. 😃

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Thank you, Rebecca! I just checked out your newsletter and subscribed--looks like we may be on the same wavelength 😊

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Thank you! I found you via a link on the 'Soaring Twenties' latest omnibus post - I couldn't believe it when I saw your subject line. We're kindred spirits!

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Losing a parent is already hard but being far from family at this time is even harder. I get that too as 99% of my family is in Brazil. I know my mother must have felt the same as you too. But honestly all of us can relate to your valley. I’m sending you a bear hug from Nashville. Can’t wait to read next week’s ‘stack. 💕

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Thank you so much, Lisa. I feel lucky that Skype and FaceTime exist so that I can at least see my mom's face when times get tough, but there is no real substitute for being together in person...I'm sure you know that feeling well with your family being so far away. Sending hugs right back your way from Cairo!

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That rudderless, where am I going feeling -- oh, I’ve known it well at different points in my life too, Sam. It’s extremely unsettling. I can’t remember where I heard this, but it’s stayed with me and I’ve thought of it at those times when I was earnestly trying to ‘figure it all out’ asap. “You don’t have to solve everything today.”

Love your childhood wisdom on the card -- it still works, maybe even more today. Keep writing! ✨

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"You don't have to solve everything today"--this is so simple, so true, and so easily forgotten. I put unreasonable pressure on myself to tackle everything right away and end up feeling bad when I inevitably come up short because I've set an impossible standard for myself. I might just make that phrase my new mantra. Thank you so much for sharing it, Jolene!!

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Thanks for your honesty and beautiful writing, Sam!

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I relate to this so much, going through a similar identity crisis since moving to Napoli

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Living in Cairo you may well have come across this already, but there's a Bantu word, Mzungu, which once meant ‘aimless wanderer’, but has come to mean ‘white person’ ever since the first European explorers traversed the continent. Really enjoyed reading this piece, which reminded me of that word.

While wandering without purpose has its place (i.e. in the hope of discovering something new at random) it certainly not a feeling you want to have for too long in the context of your entire life direction. So I love the sentiment you've expressed here and the beautiful way you've put it.

It seems it's been a couple of months since you wrote it so hoping you feel a bit less lost now!

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As always beautiful, and you know (or more rather I sense that you believe me when I say) that I can relate, to this hard travel. You know (again) that I don't mean through places you can point to on a map. Losing our preconceptions, losing our way forward is not easy. It's not fair, I'm sorry about it.

Making space by giving things up, to sort things out, is a hard ask - especially if they were very beautiful and you could almost touch them. But hopefully, it is like Newton's third law of motion, the momentum of the material ejected from the back of a rocket imparts equal force in the opposite direction. Leaving giving some things up helps kick us forward but I understand that it doesn't soften its force. But look at the amazing things you're steered through, and sharing accounts of your flight. Don't hit eject just yet, you're on your way.

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