• Alicia Assad

To the Women I Left Behind

Updated: May 14, 2020

"The universe buries strange jewels deep within us all, and then stands back to see if we can find them." ~Elizabeth Gilbert

In three months’ time, I upended my life and moved my family from New York to Asia.

You admire my sense adventure, savor the posts I have shared on social media, and tell me there is no way you could have done what I have.

You are not strong enough, brave enough, daring enough….

Indeed, I am settling into Hong Kong and finding my way. Everything is different and nothing is easy, but there is magic around every ancient corner and a beach in my backyard. With time, I’ll be more than fine.

But know my bravery wavers and the strength you see is merely a reflection of your own. While I am daring to make this work, there are many moments I want to wake up in my old life.

Moving on with Gratitude

My mind still wanders to the morning we left our New York home. With a one-way ticket to another continent in hand, I paused to look at 12 suitcases stuffed with the sentimental things I couldn’t part with: baby books, valuables, my late grandmother’s vase….

The enormity of the move struck me in that meticulously crafted mudroom I couldn’t take with me.

Yes, I dreamed of having space for each kid to throw their school books, coats, and shoes in a suburban pad. In fact, I designed four cubbies when I had only three kids and didn’t think it was possible to have another baby.

Ultimately, I filled the space I dared to build. That rainbow baby I cherish was a risk, but I carried her over the vestibule into a home I loved. In parting, I said a prayer of gratitude for getting all my greedy heart desired: the husband, four kids, a beautiful home, and deep roots in a suburban community.

I never thought I’d leave the latter two behind, but I’m making a new home amidst a community of supportive expats.

Similarly, I didn’t think motherhood would be so darn hard, but it comes with immeasurable joy.

From postpartum struggles to pregnancy loss and my son’s life-threatening burn injury, I never imagined surviving so much hardship, but that’s what made me a storyteller on resilience.

Distance allows me to see how much I grew through adversity, and I now believe it was ALL divinely perfect: the heartaches, suffering, loss, and surrendering the vision of growing old where I planted deep roots. This was part of a greater plan and daily synchronicities validate my faith.

Hong Kong was NOT on my bucket list, but the unobstructed path. I know from experience when you hold on too hard as life is pulling you in another direction, a white-knuckle grip will wear you down.

Sometimes we realize the dreams we dream. Other times, they just don’t come true. When it’s not meant to be, we must surrender and dare to dream again. Often creating the dream was a lesson in and of itself; we cannot control or predict the outcome of life. Doors close, but there is always an alternative pathway; this is hope.

The Art of Surrender

When I finally pried my fingers loose and let go of my suburban dream, free falling was initially terrifying.

Then kind of exhilarating.

Having landed in Hong Kong, I am not the same person I was.

Or maybe I’m just finally the authentic self I always hoped I could be. At least, that’s who I found amidst the stuff I sifted through and let go of in preparation for our journey abroad.

For three months, I gave and threw away the stuff I could not carry with me. In this process, I remembered some things that were painful, and chose to forgive. This was hard and uncomfortable work before it was liberating and transformative.

However, physically and emotionally purging my life was so intense, my words stopped flowing. I couldn’t write a single word, because letting go created space that flooded with grief.

No, it wasn’t about the house.

It wasn’t about the lifestyle.

It was about you.

See, in excavating my attic and heart, I remembered the women who helped me navigate past experiences. Through struggle and triumph, I was never alone. I was blessed with unconditional support as I learned what was needed to grow and move on.

Over and over again, I left women who mattered behind as I chased the dreams I dared to dream.

Mostly, the parting happened quietly. I didn’t see time winding down. I didn’t label our final goodbye.

In preparing for my move to Asia, awareness of our “lasts” kindled an aching pit in my stomach. You flew from afar, drove for hours, and dropped by from around the corner for one last hug. You said, “I’ll miss you, but how exciting! Yes, you are strong enough! How can I help you?”

You came with gifts, sent emails, and called.

You distracted my kids so I could pack.

You cried with me in the grocery store.

Every last act of kindness you offered in support of my move broke my heart a little bit more, because I couldn’t take you with me. Cementing this loss in words would have shattered my heart into a million pieces, and I needed to carry on.

My silence held the cracks together.

On Dreaming Again

While I’ve been physically building my new life for over a week now and play the part of resilient, I’ve felt lost without writing. Yes, each new discovery in Asia has lifted a piece of the grief I carried, and I see that time will heal my wound.

Still, I needed our connection to be WHOLE, and I'm so relieved to find you here again. My words started flowing at the thought of you and gratitude is now filling that void.

You must know I carried every last trinket, card, and memory of your kindness with me. I wish I didn’t have to leave you behind for adventure, but I took a leap of faith and landed gently 8,000 miles away with your support.

Your love is something I chose to take on this journey, and the strength you gave me will be woven into the words I'll write on adventure, resilience and motherhood.

They say home is where the heart is…

Or rather, it is through the heart that I found my way home.

Thank you for showing me the way.