Lauren Michelle Dowler
LIFE MOVES FORWARD...
“Have you been to Asia?”
“Nope!” I responded as I gracefully passed through checkpoints at various airports. Originally I had planned on being in Australia until April 2020, but after having a couple of dreams of coming home early, I figured that God was quite possibly trying to get my attention!
“God, how long do you want me here for?” I felt like I had done everything He wanted me to, seen everyone I wanted to, and was overall feeling quite accomplished.
“February 22nd” was the impression I felt Him saying.
That was just around the corner! I had committed to subleasing my place back at home until April, so I knew that heading home early would require some maneuvering. Thankfully, I was gifted with a friends and family pass, which allowed me to be flexible and fly standby. I was in New Zealand at the time, preparing to fly back to Brisbane which was my final stop before heading home when on my way to the airport I received an unexpected text message.
“Hey Lauren, I’m so sorry to do this to you, but a more long-term housing opportunity just came up and it starts on the 1st of March. I’m going to be moving out early.”
If that wasn’t good timing!
Just over a week after I arrived home to Mammoth from Southern California, lockdown hit. I wasn’t frantically trying to pack up and get on the next flight home fearing being trapped in Australia, I was home. Of all the places I could have been in the world, residents in my area were still able to play in our backyard- the majestic scenery and terrain that surrounded us in the Eastern Sierra.
As the weather warmed up, the snow began to melt opening the door to the backcountry, and surrounding lakes basins. I was paddling around on my kayak, taken back yet again by the waterfall that was now roaring in front of me when the words,
“would you go back to Australia?”
came to the forefront of my heart. Quite unexpectedly I responded, “ummm… God, Australia’s great, you know I love it- but hey, this really isn’t bad. But if You have something in Australia that is a part of my story- I’ll go.”
We all know what happens from there. None of us were expecting the pandemic to last over 3 years. We weren’t expecting ongoing border closures which made any glimmer of hope when it came to travel look dim. And we weren’t expecting crazy mandates and regulations. I think I can speak on behalf of all of us when I say- hehe- we wanted things to reset and go back to what we knew as normal- but that didn’t happen- and hasn’t happened.
Just months later, an opportunity presented itself to go to grad school- something I had contemplated for years, and one of the reasons you haven’t heard from me in a while (I know, I’m sorry!). It all happened so fast, from the application process to acceptance, and just this past month finally finishing my program. You heard me, I’m done!
And where am I presently writing to you from? Australia.
It seemed like a long shot, especially being that it was one of the last countries to reopen its borders. I planned my entire course load as though I would be able to study abroad back to this beautifully familiar country, with not a lot of reassurance from circumstances that it would actually happen. Almost everything inside of me knew that I was going, and at times when I would plan or talk about a plan B, I would feel a little gut check- no, I’m going.
Things fell together over here favorably. There’s a housing crisis in Brisbane as I’m sure with many places, and in the midst of high demand and soaring rent prices, God provided me a two-bedroom apartment when droves of people were lining up at a single open house. He also provided me with an incredible community of friends from around the world both at my university and church community. He provided a scholarship that paid for a massive chunk of my education abroad, freeing up my hands and brain to focus on a full course load. And currently, as I’m packing up, I’m watching as He’s using what He’s put in my hands for this brief six months to bless those that are staying.
Having lived abroad on multiple occasions before, I would always advise people to never live somewhere for less than a year. At six months, you’re typically just starting to get the hang of things. You have everything where you want it in your apartment, are finally able to navigate around town without feeling stressed out by the public transportation system, and most importantly, are building relationships.
To be completely transparent, after finishing my graduate degree the week of my birthday and finally getting scuba certified, it seemed ever so appropriate to celebrate- yet somehow- it was so difficult to do. I wanted to scream for joy at my accomplishment (and when I was alone, driving around the Gold Coast in my friend’s car I actually did), but I also felt like curling up and bawling. Once again, celebration and sadness were operating simultaneously and it was quite conflicting really. I’m still sad at the thought of moving on from the people I’ve grown to love, the apartment that I finally felt settled into, and now a season of my life that once was daunting but now has become familiar.
LIFE MOVES. And as the tides of the sea come and go like clockwork, LIFE MOVES ON.
I’ve seen a pattern in my life of trying to hold on to former seasons, friendships, and various parts of my story. Memories are a beautiful thing, but there is absolutely no possible way to relive them! When I’ve attempted to, they’re merely just a stale replica of the past. I’m learning more now than ever before to hold my hands open. When I arrived I wasn’t expecting to furnish a two-bedroom apartment as though I was checking off a wedding registry. I knew that just months out, I would be packing up boxes, giving things away, posting on Buy, Sell, and Trade yet again, and cleaning another space.
I typically cry every time I move. I think that’s normal?? This time I have immense peace in the process, knowing that the valuables given to me were temporary. I know that I can’t pack everything I have here today into a suitcase, but the invaluables, the relationships and experiences, will definitely fit and thrive!
I don’t know exactly what I’m going home to. A new chapter is on deck, and all I presently know is that I’m heading back to a place that I once called home. A place that bred outrageous joy in my heart, and a place that housed immense pain. The tides are high, and I will await the unveiling of what’s beneath, but one thing is absolute- I have 100% assurance that it’s not going to be the same.
When I left for Australia in 2020, my brother and his now wife were in the US visiting for the holidays. Upon arriving back to California from Australia, I was surprised to find that they were still there. Their flights home were canceled. After having lived in China for more than a decade, I listened as over the phone he talked his maid through the process of packing up his apartment in Shanghai. His company relocated him to Singapore and he hasn’t been back since. The beauty is that this time around when they ask me if I’ve been to Asia, my answer will be, “Yes!”
Singapore and Japan- here I come!