| This is the 3rd story of Our Life Logs |
I grew up as a child of the world. Nowhere was home because for nearly my entire childhood, everywhere was home. My parents’ work kept us on the move, traveling all over South America. They were social workers that focused primarily on helping young people and underprivileged children, orphans in many cases, who had lost their parents in war or in gang-related issues. I helped them take care of the kids as we moved around the continent for years, never settling down in one place for too long.
As a small kid, moving around was great. I had a blast experiencing the world, trying out new things and making new friends. It got harder as I got older. The major part of my teenage years was spent in the Dominican Republic, where I felt myself more established in terms of friends and relationships. To break away from that established routine and jump around between countries had become more difficult for me as a teenager. A tight group of friends was exactly the support I needed, and that was hard to find when you were a new face.
As I grew older, I began to see how my nomadic life had impacted me, both positively and negatively. The positive side is that it has taught me how to adapt myself to the environment, to different cultures, scenarios, and lives. I have been able to easily fit in anywhere and with anyone.
The experiences also made me good at always trying to look at things from different perspectives. When people stay in the same place their whole lives, they tend to develop set beliefs that are hard to change, even if they are wrong or hurtful. Traveling and getting to know people has broadened my perspective on day-to-day things and has given me a good balance.
The negative of all the travel is that I don’t really feel I am a part of anywhere. I have never developed a sense of belonging that most people have. When people ask me where I am from, simple as it sounds, I feel it very hard to answer.
Along with the lack of stability comes the absence of long, enduring, meaningful friendships. I had a lot of fun adventures traveling, but sometimes I think I missed out on building those deep and heartfelt relationships with friends, because I was never around long enough to keep it up. I do have a lot of friends, but the relationships are not as deep. I have seen people who have friends that they’ve known for their entire life and they can talk about anything. I unfortunately don’t have that close affinity with anyone. And that has had a lot of implications in my life.
The reason that we had to move around so much was because my parents belonged to a special social group. Members in the group expressed their faith through social work and charity. They were not allowed to work for profit. My family was sustained by sponsorships and donations to our faith. It didn’t believe in school education either, although I was somehow able to attend high school. It was an interesting experience growing up in the group.
I ended up meeting my wife in the same group. We were in Colombia at the time. She was a fellow member who had a similar upbringing that lacked stability and encouraged travel. We married at a very young age, and had our first kid when I was 19. After we were married, we still traveled around as part of the group for several years. Later, we wanted to set up an organization with some friends in Cali, Colombia to raise funds for the social cause. It was expensive to get it started, so to help pay, I decided to get my first real job outside of social work. The plan was to work for six months, save up the money, then come back home and start the foundation.
My life hit a turning point when I left Colombia and went to work at a call center in the Dominican Republic. I had never been employed at a for-profit business before. But soon I realized that I was really good at it. At the end of the six months, I was promoted to the floor manager. I loved the work and everything about it. After the six months was over, I ended the employment and came home as planned.
However, my wife and I made a strong decision. We both realized that we had worked so hard for others our entire lives and now it was time we work for our own family. We wanted to work and make a living for ourselves. We had three kids at this point. It was our opportunity to give them a better life, a life of stability that we never had. We decided to leave the group and live on our own.
This, for me, is where my story begins. It was a bold decision. The only corporate work experience I had was the six months at the call center. I had no higher education, and we had three kids to provide for. Everyone seemed to have low expectations of us. There was a lot of tension from both sides of our parents. It was daunting indeed. Yet we made up our minds. We were going to break all the ties and just do it. And we did.
We went out and got our first apartment. Although we had no money, we didn’t get a shabby little place that we could afford, and instead, we got a nice apartment that we couldn’t afford. Then we put our kids in private school. We knew we couldn’t afford those at the time, but we also knew that if we worked hard enough and pushed ourselves, we would find a way to make ends meet. We had very high expectations of ourselves. And it worked.
That was when I started my professional career. It was 2012. I worked very hard to get myself established in the corporate environment. I remember I burned my leg at my apartment one Saturday a few weeks into my new job. The pain was intense; I had third degree burns. But I still went to work on Monday. I wanted to prove how driven I was. I didn’t want to take the easy way out and just stay home on sick leave. It was hard to get around the office and do my job with the injury, but I didn’t want to let the opportunity go. It was survival of the fittest, and I had to persevere for my family. I have been with that same company ever since.
We moved to the United States two years ago following a company restructure. The opportunity was great, and I knew our kids would have a better life here. They are happy; they play soccer and have made many friends. Our plan now is to settle here in the US. I want the kids to feel like they belong somewhere. I want them to settle and develop a sense of belonging that my wife and I never had. After they grow up, they may choose to travel and live somewhere else, but I hope when they think back one day, they will be assured of the knowledge that there’s a place that they can call home.
This is the story of Andres Concha.
Andres was born in Colombia in 1984, and has moved around different countries throughout his childhood, teenage and young adult years. He is now settling down in the United States with his lovely wife and three kids, creating a sense of belonging and stability that was absent in his early life.
If you would like to share in the life journey of Andres’ wife Isabel, click here.
This story first touched our hearts on May 31, 2017.
| Writer: Sean Link | Editor: MJ |