“But… Will you be happy there?“, my mother asked when we once again talked on Skype about my upcoming move to Uganda. There are dreams children have that scare parents. I am a mom myself, but I can’t imagine what a parent feels when their child suddenly decides to move abroad. 11,000 km away. Across the sea and the desert.
My emigration, wanderlust, or whatever you name it, began quite inconspicuously. I went to Vienna for a 6-month internship first. I didn’t know whether I would stay there for longer or if I would return home. Eventually, it turned out my travels went much further than I first expected, and after the internship I moved to Munich for a few months, and then, for 1.5 years, to Dusseldorf. Coming home went down to 2-3 visits a year and that was okay, as long as I had a chance to visit my family and closest friends, who had already became accustomed to my regular absence.
While abroad, I had also visited many non-standard places, including Jordan, Palestine, Ethiopia, Tanzania or Uganda. Apart from being away from home, my beloved ones also had to get accustomed to my strange solo travel plans. And for a family that has never particularly traveled, it wasn’t the easiest thing.
With each departure, the same question was asked: “Why there? Why alone?!“. I had only one answer: “Because this is the place that I’m curious about. That’s how I am.” This was usually followed by other questions about wars and diseases, interwoven with stereotypes I used to patiently answer.
But one day everything changed. I had returned home from Easter holidays in Uganda (April 2015) and two weeks later announced I resigned from work, and in 3 months I would be moving to East Africa.
My mother, after a moment of silence on the other end of the phone, asked me: “And will you be happy there?“.
That was probably the most beautiful question a parent can ask a child reaching out for their dream. And although she was uncertain, she asked me what I would do there, where I would live. She wanted to know more about the country. She asked without any judgment. She listened.
To care for someone does not mean to ban them from doing crazy things and be against what we don’t personally like. It doesn’t mean to quarrel and insult, because the other one has a different plan for life than what we have planned for them. To me, caring means giving the other person – your child, your partner, anyone – happiness and allow them to have a space to fulfill their dreams, have passions. To let them follow the path of joy.
Only this way they can make mistakes and learn.
Let’s get to the point…
Happiness has many dimensions and it can be triggered by many people or events in our lives, but no one but us know better which button to press to turn our own happiness on.
Child’s well-being. Partner’s happiness. It is a wish common for all people in this world. But not everyone realizes that no one else but them can define where the joy comes from.
So if you read it, dads, mums, husbands and wives all over the world, here’s such a small appeal from me. Believe in your beloved ones and let them be themselves. No matter if they want to travel the world, live in a hut in some wilderness in South America, set up their own business and change their mind after few months, or become millionaires. Maybe they will drop out of uni at some point, maybe their business will fail, maybe they will go through millions of failures! That doesn’t matter.
What matters is to share the happiness, wherever it comes from. And remember – what doesn’t break them, makes them stronger.
Believe in them and support them in their small joys. Talk, don’t criticize. Ask, don’t stereotype. For a happy beloved one makes a happy you.