On the Horizon by caralyn evans

There are many narratives that tell stories of immigrants who came to the United States in search of the quintessential ‘American dream’ – a good job, a house with a yard for the kids to play in, financial security, and the freedom to follow your heart to wherever it may lead you. This narrative is one that holds a sense of awe and mysticism, and it seems that everyone has heard of the inspiring success stories. They may even have wondered what their life would be like if they took a chance and tried something completely new - but what about the narrative of the ex-patriot who leaves this dream in search of a new one? This story is one that tells the untold narrative of not the ex-patriot, but his son - Simon Amoni, who watched his father figure move to another country halfway across the world for his job, taking his mother, and thus almost his entire support system with him.

There can be many interpretations of this narrative and many themes that prevail, but it is most interesting to see how world-views can become altered so quickly that we do not even remember when it happened. It is hard to imagine the sacrifices that moving to another country entails, some that many people will never know and cannot even imagine. While these of course depend on the people involved, many of them are the same. Family gets left behind back home, it is inevitable – and thus, family becomes disconnected. Entire ways of life must change and be adapted to the new surroundings. These are struggles that even if everyone does not go through them, they can acknowledge their strength.

This is Simon Amoni’s story.

Simon Amoni at his home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Twenty-eight hours later and the plane finally touches down. It was an exhausting trip both mentally and physically - full of the stresses of travel, but also of uncertainty. He has flown across the globe but at least he’s finally here, for the first time. His parents welcome him with open arms and excitement in their eyes, but this is not home for him. It is a completely different and foreign world, and one that has completely changed not only his perspective but almost every aspect of his life, and most certainly, his family’s life.

Simon must take a 28 hour plane ride just to see his parents.

Waking up is a whole new routine. Outside of the sleek, new, high-rise apartment that his parents now live in he can hear the people of Singapore starting their busy lives at an astonishing pace. He is just barely getting out of bed and already car horns, sirens and sounds of people bustling through the streets are audible. This would be a comfort to him, hearing other people and knowing that is he is not alone here, but he cannot understand anything that they say. He speaks fluent Italian, but that won’t help him now. He has tried to make peace with the fact that he will learn so much by being out his comfort zone, but at the same time, he never thought that would feel uncomfortable when he was home.

Singapore is culturally rich, vibrant and exciting.

This place is nothing like he is used to, the exact definition of foreign. His house in Cary, North Carolina where he grew up with his parents and two sisters was a spacious, quintessential American home with a grassy lawn and garden; a two-car garage, a small street, friendly neighbors and a basketball court that he played on every day after school. The only sounds perceptible in the morning would come from the school bus down at the corner and the occasional barking dogs. Everything here was quieter, simpler, and familiar.

A year and three months ago, Simon Amoni’s life changed course. After growing up in the same house in Cary for his entire life, it was a huge shock when his parents moved to Singapore for his dad’s job. Simon comes from an international background and is no stranger to a lifestyle of flying hours oversees to visit family over the holidays. His grandparents live in Umbria, Italy, a small town an hour from Rome and Simon spent his summers immersed in Italian culture, surrounded by his big family, friends, and all the simple joys of life.

Growing up, Simon spent his summers in Rome, Italy with his family.

While he loved traveling and going on Italian adventures to see his family, he always loved coming back home even more. There was just no other feeling like it - being in a place where he felt completely comfortable, safe, and accepted. Never did he think that ‘home’ would change so drastically, especially to a country that he had no ties or emotional connection to. Now, there was the new possibility for adventure but one that Simon was not particularly excited about. He liked being able to travel and go on vacations but they were exactly that - vacations. His parents moving to Singapore was not a vacation, but their new life now, and it was soon to be his.

“It was a really hard for me because time was winding down and I didn’t want to accept it. Either my dad had to get a new job or we would have to sell our house.” Simon’s parents didn’t want to sell the house because the opportunity to move was available and would offer financial security for the entire family. “Then he broke the news to the family that he was going to go for six months and stay if he liked it. It was tough to accept because he was moving to a place that I had never even seen before, and a place that I knew nothing about.”

When Simon’s father first contemplated moving for his job he went through many of the struggles that one would imagine would come with the decision. He had to think of what was best for his family, not just him and how it would impact them in the long run. Moving across the globe meant uprooting supporting systems that had taken them many long years to build and having to find new ones once they moved. Moving meant that they would have to get used to seeing a new language on the billboards and hearing it in the streets amidst millions of people who had entirely lives than they. And more than anything, moving meant that they would become a minority – something that had never experienced before and which would take a long time getting used to.

The streets of Singapore are completely new territory for Simon and his family.

This transition would mark a fundamental shift in anyone’s life, but especially in one that has already been established for twenty plus years. It hit Simon very hard and his reactions show that moving at any age can be hard and life changing in many ways. He described his feelings, and to anyone who has experienced a monumental change in this life, it would be relatable. Some days are better than others. Some days its feels like you’re on top of the world and some days you wonder if you can get out of bed. If you can smile and pretend to be happy or if you just don’t feel like pretending at all. Some days you laugh and are so full of exuberance that strangers wish they were your friends, because then they could be having that much fun too. And sometimes it just feels hopeless, like you are walking down a never ending path.

The Arboretum in Chapel Hill, North Carolina where Simon likes to spends time.

Many young people go through the struggle of their parents moving from their childhood home but few know the struggle of a move that big and truly life changing. A 28-hour plane ride is a seemingly unreachable distance and one that would prevent Simon from the frequent visits that he was used to during college. He never pictured himself as the type to go home regularly on weekends, but also never realized how much he would miss it now that it wasn’t an option. He could physically go back to his house in Cary, North Carolina but it was just not the same without his parents there, and knowing that they did not live there anymore was more than enough to make him upset and to think about how things used to be.

The last time that he was able to see his parents was six months ago and he faces hardships and challenges because of it. “Maintaining a daily routine is difficult and if I start to think about, then I start to get depressed. It has affected me more than I thought it would. Right after I had finally gotten comfortable at school, they moved. I felt like I had just worked out issues that I had been having and now I was having to deal with new issues that went with the central figure leaving the house.”

The hardest thing for Simon was that in the back of his mind he knew that he would have to come back to UNC with his parents in another country, whereas before they were only 30 minutes away. His entire support system that he had been depending on so much to make a smooth transition was uprooted and there was nothing that he could do about it. “If I feel like I can’t do it, I have no choice, and if I need support I can’t get it. My parents are only a phone call away but it is eye opening because I have to do things by myself now and look after my two sisters who are living with my grandma at a critical time in their growth and don’t have their parents around.”

“I get to visit a new place that is foreign and exciting but it doesn’t feel like home. If I have learned anything from my parents moving it would be that I believe that sometimes when we are forced into situations that we do not choose we may not always know it then, but they help us to grow and learn; and we are better off because of them. So here I am. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do and what I can accomplish, but I am excited to figure it all out.”

Simon still views Singapore as going on a vacation, and not as going home.

Simon continues to adapt to his new life without his parents, just as they adapt to living in a foreign country and dealing with being ‘foreigners’ for the first time. The entire family has had to change their routines and adjust but they have all learned from it and think that it is actually bringing them closer together, despite the distance. They talk more than they used to and now are able to cherish the times that they do get to spend together, rather than just take it for granted. They all think about how they have evolved and all realize how lucky it was Simon’s father to be able to take the job that advanced his career, even though it meant needing to move.

Not a day goes by that Simon does not contemplate his life and think about his future. It is something that consumes him because he does not know exactly what he wants to do after graduation or where his life is going to take him. However, the every day happiness that he feels now after coming to terms with his parents moving and seeing their success is something that he is grateful for. He has reconnected with friends, gotten more organized in school and discovered passions that make him truly happy. He has discovered that playing basketball not only takes him back to the fond memories that he has from childhood but also helps him to deal with stress in a healthy way.

Playing basketball is one of the things that makes Simon truly happy and that helps him to take his mind off things.

It is something that connects him to the place that he is in, wherever that may be. And a passion that helps him to feel more like himself. It is days like this when he is exuberant. "Now when I look outside I see the horizon in a whole new way. Before it separated me from my family and now I am not worried about my future, but excited for what it brings."

Credits:

Created with images by ian? - "View from Esplanade" • markyharky - "9V-SWK Boeing 777 Singapore" • kyeniz - "Tree-way" • aotaro - "Lunar New Year Celebration" • tallkev - "Singapore kite Festival" • prunkova - "italy rome coliseum" • Jirka Matousek - "Singapore" • aotaro - "Singapore light trails" • chillihead - "Basketball"

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