August 15, 2020

Diplomatic life, a life in episodes

By Alexandra Paucescu.

A pile of numbered boxes, each one caring things but also memories of our life, ready to be shipped away…it is a picture that so many of us, who live a diplomatic life, have seen at least once, but still gives us chills, every time it happens…

The view is proof that a chapter in our life has come to an end and another one is about to unfold. Melancholy inevitably kicks in, as we try to recall now the last five years spent in a city that became our home, and other years before that…

It was like yesterday that we first moved abroad, for our first diplomatic posting… and then, few years later, our first departure… I remember those empty corridors of our apartment in Vienna, where our children had learned their first steps, where we had lived such happy, cheerful times… I remember the innocence in my kids’ eyes and the anxiety for a new beginning, in ours…

Moving is always painful. After all, we are talking about what psychologists say it is one of the most stressful situations in someone’s life.

But ending a diplomatic posting is way tougher. Each time you arrive in a new country you start dreaming about the life you are going to build for yourself and your family, a completely new reality that you are about to live in and try to make familiar. You discover new places, you fall in love with new cultures that you immerse in and you make lifetime friendships. Day by day, you start to understand and to think like the locals, your children start having their own connections, so do you… You surprise yourself singing songs in languages you never understood before, at some point you will have your favorite restaurant around the corner, specific flavors that soon will become your preferred ones… and then… it is time to move again, to start fresh… Years fly like seconds and, in the blink of an eye, you find yourself all over again, in the same situation, the circle is full once more.

If it is going back to your home country or to another new destination, it really makes no difference… the feeling of displacement is almost similar, the stress of novelty is there. When you return home, you have maybe the advantage of being reunited with your extended family and closest friends, that gives you a small sense of comfort, but, let’s face it… nobody stays the same… places change in your absence, people change and slowly distance themselves and you still need time to feel reconnected to everything and everybody, you need to build ‘social bridges’ once again. The feeling of belonging is though stronger than when you move to a foreign country, where you don’t have initially any common ground, at least for the first few months. Another destination, another cycle…

With each new move, we transform, we become wiser, more patient and more resilient. We learn to wait, to communicate effectively and to live the present, not to look back to the past often and also, not to be too anxious about the future.

But how do we get to keep the same enthusiasm and excitement we had when we first started this nomadic life, following around the world our spouses, who work for the Foreign Service?

How can we protect our heart not to be broken from yet another painful departure? How do we find the strength to encourage our children to look forward to a new reality, not showing our own struggle? How can we permanently support our ‘halves’ and also stay focused and take care of countless necessary organizational details, in just a few months or even weeks?

I will tell you how:  it’s LOVE. Love is what keeps us, the diplomatic spouses, going. Love for our family and the strong belief that this is our important contribution to the career of our partner, this is what gives us the strength to live a life of diplomatic episodes, like a perpetual repetition of the legend of Sisyphus, hoping it will all be worth it in the end.

We look with confidence to the future, close the door to the past and bravely turn the page to yet another chapter of our own story, hoping that what lies out there will be a brilliant sequel of a lifetime adventure. Each one of us has a marvelous, best-seller story of life to tell, each one of us mastered the art of reinvention and adapting in a world that is not always supportive, nor fair.

There is this saying: ‘make future plans, if you want to make God laugh’. Indeed, life of diplomats is always unpredictable, surprising and emotionally consuming. 

I don’t know what future holds, where life is going to take me and my family, how steep the slopes of this roller coaster called life will be, but I truly hope that, in my senior years, I will look back and say : ‘Oh, what a fine ride my life was!’.

About the author: Alexandra Paucescu (42)  – Romanian, born in Bucharest. Former exchange high-school student in the USA,  has a university degree in Management and a Master in Business, she speaks Romanian, English, French, German and Italian.

Turned diplomatic spouse by the age of 30, mother of two, active volunteer for UNICEF and United Nations Women’s Guild, author of ‘Just a diplomatic spouse’ book. Loves music, skiing and tennis.

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