New Girl

by Laura on September 14, 2010

She answered my questions with the minimums –one sentence or two at the most. And, try as I might, she kept responding to my best-friendly with no leading comments of her own, and then she delivered the ultimate subtle-shut-down.

She asked no questions of me, the New Girl, at all.

And so I busied myself with watching Ava play, and I tried not to take the social rejection too seriously.  I tried not to think about all the questions I’d like to ask her about this new place I’ve landed, and I ignored the loneliness of isolation, again, that started to creep in.  I told myself that the tears I blinked back were irrational at best, and that this woman sharing my space had probably just had a bad morning.  I reminded myself that she couldn’t have known that we Parkers had been waiting all week for this chance to interact with other expat moms and kids. She couldn’t have understood how much hope we had put in this morning.

And I get it, I do.  She’s been here for years, not months. And her plate is full already–with activities and friendships and ministry and kids. I was there, honestly, just six months ago in a quaint mountain town in Colorado.  I was struggling to pursue the friendships I already had, and spotting new moms at the park found me a bit less eager to exchange numbers for fear that I wouldn’t, actually, have the time to call, after all.

But, this week I tasted New Girl, and I am still choking on the bitter. I tried to connect and fit in to this culture of other expat missionary moms, and I found that maybe I’m more square-peg than I thought.  I was reminded that white faces don’t automatically erase gulfs of culture and generation and personality and beliefs.

And, once again, I’m driven to a loneliness that begs for the One Who Doesn’t Leave.

And I remember in my core that sometimes a lack of water makes for deeper, stronger roots.

And I know that this is a season for me as New Girl.  And I know that, perhaps, eventually, I’ll be the one logging years, instead of months.  Maybe one day, I’ll be the girl with more answers than questions on this piece of foreign soil. But, I pray that when that day arrives, I’ll keep enough margin in my schedule and in my heart to speak vulnerable. To ask questions.  And to get the New Girl’s number.

And then make the time to call it.

How about you?  Are you tasting New Girl or Seasoned Girl right now, regardless of where you call home?  What are the challenges of each in forming new friendships?

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{ 54 comments… read them below or add one }

kendal September 14, 2010 at 11:46 am

new girl at the new church. but i’m struggling because i want to be left alone. for fear i’ll cry. or be too weird. i don’t feel like i fit in because i have no musical talent, don’t homeschool my children (i teach public school, even) and don’t have any tattos. perhaps there’s a place for me there….i’m proud of you for wanting the relationships. i would want to be a recluse, i’m afraid.
kendal recently posted..a tuesday in september

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Laura September 15, 2010 at 11:05 am

Kendal, new churches are almost as scary as new countries in a lot of cases, dontcha think? hang in there, my new friend, and keep reaching out and stepping in. And don’t for a second think that tattoos and homeschooling and playing the guitar are the only tickets to the cool club. :)

You’re totally cool enough already. ha ha. Hang in there .. . .

Laura

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Julie September 14, 2010 at 12:31 pm

Beautiful. Honest. Insightful. Challenging.
So proud of the way you are staying engaged and allowing your heart to be accessed even in the midst of pain and disappointment. Thank you for allowing us a window seat to your sacrificial following. You make me love Jesus more. Love you.

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Heather September 14, 2010 at 1:00 pm

Oh Laura, I’m so sorry. Being new is just not fun. It’s hard to be in that humbling place of essentially asking “is there room for ME in YOUR life?” There’s some of that attitude here too in Kenya, and I have to remind myself that not everyone will be my best friend, and I’ve got to be okay with that. It hurts, just the same. It’s one thing being the new girl in your own home culture, but it’s another when almost every aspect of your life is an unknown and has been turned upside down… and someone to lean on seems THAT much more important. There’s a lot about you to love. Hang in there, I’ll be praying for you and that soul sister that God’s got for you there… somewhere.

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Amy September 14, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Now who is the crazy girl that wouldn’t be friends with my amazingly talented, wonderfully made sister? I mean obviously she didn’t know who you are b/c if she did she would be falling ALL over herself to be your friend. You are a blessing to me, Laura Parker…all the way from this side of the earth. Love you.

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Brenda September 14, 2010 at 8:12 pm

Totally agree with Amy. You are one of the finest girls I’ve ever known (along with your two sisters and sister-in-law, of course!) and that girl just has no idea who she is rubbing shoulders with! The blessing that God has put in front of her, the Divine Appointment that she is missing. In the meantime, God is helping you drive stakes right now that will bless others in your future when you are the Old Girl. You are a precious prize to Jesus and your family!

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Laura September 14, 2010 at 9:16 pm

Oh, geez . . . thanks, guys. Now I’m the one feeling like the prize, instead of the girl without a prom date.

Appreciate the props . . . :)

Love, Laura

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Brenda September 14, 2010 at 8:15 pm

What does that mean about the comment awaiting moderation? I never wrote that. Am I in some kind of generation gap-AGAIN. I would be what you call the OLD OLD ANCIENT GIRL, I guess!

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Amy Stroup September 14, 2010 at 9:09 pm

So been there. Prayers for you and the kids. Trusting God to be enough for all of you right now.
hugs.

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Stacey September 14, 2010 at 10:51 pm

The lonely you feel – I have been there. I remember being new and just wanting to hear my name. No one knew my name. And so, He answered, in a big way in the grocery store. Like only He could. It happened to be a girl I went to college with years before and 1,000 miles away. But she said my name. And I knew – it was Him telling me once again – I see you. You are not alone. I am here.

I’m guessing, new girl, that Jesus just might want to keep you to Himself a little while longer.
Stacey recently posted..Multitude Monday

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Laura September 15, 2010 at 4:06 am

Stacey and Aubrey,

Ladies. Thank you. For the encouragement, for the reminder that HE SEES. And HE KNOWS. Always. Always. Always.

Thank you friend of my childhood, and friend over the wires.

Love, Laura

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Aubrey September 15, 2010 at 12:15 am

Hey sweet friend. It’s so hard to hear your loneliness from so far away. I would give anything to be able to sit at the pool with you and Matt and the kids. And the reality is, through your whole life, God has brought divinely appointed relationships and people into your life. Some long term (of which I am hugely honored to be counted a part of) and some just for a season. And this Old Girl was clearly not supposed to be one of the characters in your story. I know it’s not about her, but your mom and Amy couldn’t be more right. When I think about somebody having the opportunity to spend time with you and get to know you, and they pass it up, I can’t help but think, “what the heck is wrong with you? Don’t you see who’s in front of you?” I’d give anything to be there and she’s completely missing it. This season is not permanent, and it too will pass. And when you’re on the other side of it, your roots will be even deeper than they ever have been. I love you bunches, and you’re not alone. No matter how much it might feel like it at the moment.

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Kim September 15, 2010 at 4:06 am

I love this post for so may reasons.
I am still NewGirl with only 15 months under my belt of expat experience. But with a recent flood of newcomers, I am somehow wearing the hat of SeasonedGirl.
But I feel more like Somewhere. In. Between.
Hey … maybe that should be my new theme!
Love & Blessings from Hong Kong,
Kim
Kim recently posted..At The Pitch

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Heather K September 15, 2010 at 9:14 am

Not so long ago here in CO, I was the New Girl and you were the Old Girl. I was scared and broken and you opened your heart and your world to me in every, every way. Amen, Amy, this Thailand-Old-Girl is missing out. Big Time. And when you, Laura, are the Old Girl, there is no doubt that your New Girl will shine under your wing. Praying for her to get there fast. Love you,
Heather

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Laura Tovar Dietrick September 15, 2010 at 9:34 am

Laura,
I have been “new girl” a billion times over the 27 years of wandering the world with my now retired army husband. It never gets any easier. You have hit the nail on the head and now that you know that you are sitting on the other side of the fence, you will recognize in the future (when you are no longer “new girl”) how important it is to reach out. In the meantime, you have to go out of your way to speak to others, extend your hand and just keep doing it until it works. Good luck.

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Laura Beth September 15, 2010 at 9:38 am

I suppose that after 3 years of being back in this place I should be seasoned. But in that time I feel like I’m just now tapping into the lives of others. It was only in the past year that someone would call and ask me questions. Or to playdate. I’m no longer “new” but I am far from “connected.” All of this makes me homesick for the South, where the waitress at the Mexican restaurant I went to with S & A was nicer to me than most people in my church! It’s hard to keep hoping and keep your heart open for months and years, waiting for friendship and trying to extend it when it seems that no matter what you do, it is never received. Sigh….my challenge is to give Love even if I don’t get it back. So very hard!

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Michelle Abels September 15, 2010 at 4:35 pm

Hey Lady! I know how you feel. I have been the ‘New Girl’…many many times. It is very hard. I have been here in Charlotte for two years + and I still get lonely. Making friends is like trying to find a job.

Some people will take your application, but just aren’t hiring. They wanted to hire you, they thought you were great, but it just wasn’t in the budget. Others are simply NOT taking open applications….which seems to be the case above. Then you have the jobs that simply need a warm body. Those are the ones you need to be leery of….they will run you to the ground and leave you wondering ‘how could I have been so blind’. Then every once in a while you find the right job….they are hiring, they are not too eager to just pick anyone and they take the time to know you to make sure its a good fit.

I know its hard. Don’t let one persons who wasn’t taking ‘open applications’ get you down. Who knows, might have been a crappy place to work!

As a military kid we moved around a lot and I had a hard time making friends. The best advice I got was from my mom. She said, “Don’t expect people to come knock on your door. If you want to play with someone, go knock on theirs”.

Keep knocking and keep applying!!

We love you!

Michelle

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Laura September 15, 2010 at 8:23 pm

Michelle, I LOVE the FRIENDSHIP/WORK analogy. What a great picture on so many levels. I love the “open applications” image, too. So perfect in light of finding new friendships.

And I love your mom’s advice. I think my kids are going to be getting that next time we rub shoulders with other kids at the pool!

Love you guys, Laura

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Sharon September 15, 2010 at 4:58 pm

New girl. in a totally new world. new church. new “denomination” (southern baptist instead of Independant Baptist), new environment (country not city/suburbs), new ‘culture’, new home-life (no more helper M-F to help with the housework, cooking, kids, laundry, homeschooling, shopping), haven’t gained the ‘new friends’, completely ditched by many many long-term friends for various reasons. lonely… yeah just a bit. and I have been where you are too, you see that white face across the restaurant or shopping market and you long to make a connection because they just might be Americans you could socialize with… and also where you are in the sense of the long term missionary not having a moment of time for you. I so empathize with what you are going through there, I pray God’s grace for each day you face.
Sharon recently posted..A Change in the Weather

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Laura September 15, 2010 at 8:33 pm

Ladies, As I look over these comments, I am reminded of a few things . . . .

1. We women thrive on relationships with other women. It is a core desire/need we all have. And when we don’t have it, we can taste that something is missing.

2. We are all tempted to isolate when we feel rejection or when it becomes harder to connect with other women. We are all tempted to pull ourselves in, put up the shield, and turn on the “Closed” sign on our hearts.

3. And the result of that is never much any good, for anyone.

I have loved reading your comments and hearing that you can relate. From so many different places along the journey.

Thanks for your encouragement, as always.

Love from this jungle,
laura

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Tamara September 15, 2010 at 10:34 pm

Ok. Because I HAVE to say something: ditto all the posts who said how cool you are, how much that Seasoned Girl is missing out, how God really is THE ONE you/we need, how much we feel your pain at this time, and how we KNOW you will use this to God’s glory!
Also, thanks for the reminder because I was New Girl here in WP and didn’t get “welcomed” . . . at all. And now who do you think is guilty of not welcoming? uh, huh.
Hugs to you from this side!

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matt September 15, 2010 at 11:39 pm

Can I say that you are my favorite New Girl? Still.

matt

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Laura September 15, 2010 at 11:47 pm

Hey Handsome,

Um, yeah, you can say that.

L

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Amy September 17, 2010 at 4:10 am

Hi Laura,

I stumbled onto your blog today through a series of links – and my heart immediately connected to your post. Thanks for sharing this vulnerable and real aspect of your life.

I’m at the place of counting years here in South Africa, but still feeling “new” and “outside” every time I face the social awkwardness and try to connect with other young families outside of ministry. It’s tough. Really tough.

I’ll be chewing on this quote from your post today: “And I remember in my core that sometimes a lack of water makes for deeper, stronger roots”… because it resonates with me in more ways than I can express!!

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Laura September 17, 2010 at 10:48 pm

Thanks, Amy. Thanks for stopping by, and I’m glad you left feeling a bit more connected. I recently talked with a woman who had lived in India for 6 years, and I asked her if she “got used to living overseas,” and she said, “NO. I still get so tired of being a foreigner.” Not exactly encouraging for the both of us, but I guess it is hopeful that we are not only in our discomfort–no matter how many years we’ve rested in a certain place.

Love lots, Laura

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Amy Sullivan September 18, 2010 at 12:24 am

Laura,
I love how you share your heart and connect with so many while doing so! I think if we knew each other in the real world, we would be instant friends.
Amy Sullivan recently posted..A Radically Good Read

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Mary Lee Moritz September 18, 2010 at 9:36 am

How good it is to see you turn to your Best Friend in the midst of disappointment that is so hard to understand, and accept. I’m sorry for your pain, and will keep praying God provides your family with very special friends to love and be loved by—-soon. I love you!

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Rebecca Little September 19, 2010 at 9:15 am

New girl/teacher at school. There’s already the stigma of being Special Ed. vs. Regular Ed. I’m still one step further away with being Special Ed/Self-contained for children with Autism. Some don’t know what to do with my children which sometimes translates to me. I’m afraid to need or want anything. “What if I’m being too needy?” I think. Will they reject me?

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Tina November 24, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I read this post a while ago and felt your pain. Then this past week, I had a similar experience. I am living in a tiny town in Serbia. I look like everyone else, but I am not. I was so excited to see a foreigner. A lady from Africa was living in my little town. I pinned that same hopes and dreams on our meeting for coffee. Disaster. She was not interested. I thought, WE, two foreigners would have something in common…
God is good and faithful. I know he has and will provide amazing friends here. But I was still crushed.
Thanks for writing this. Hugs!

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Laura November 24, 2010 at 7:13 pm

Wow, Tina– you are seriously my new hero–SIBERIA!! But, man, I’m sorry you had a disappointing friendship week. It’s hard to want to connect so badly and then feel rejection– especially when the rejection comes in a place where you already feel alone b/c of culture and place and language. Hang in there, friend. REally, hang in there– your friendship is a gift not to be missed.

Love from here, L

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amy in peru December 16, 2010 at 5:30 pm

ouch. that was rough. I’m sorry…
hold His hand through it, He’s always waiting to hang out with us! I’m sure by now, things are probably better? hoping… ;)

amy in peru

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lauraparkerblog April 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm

 Yes . . . better.

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Ann Kroeker April 13, 2011 at 9:43 pm

You have me thinking about when we switched churches a few years ago. We visited many churches, and we saw how easy it is for people to just talk with their friends and not do the uncomfortable thing–that is, to reach out to the new family and have a pleasant, welcoming conversation.

Eventually we committed to a church and that is where we now attend. We are no longer the New Family, so it’s our turn to reach out. Such a good reminder!

Also, I think of when I’m visiting my husband’s family in Belgium, struggling to speak French, wishing I could be in on all the jokes and chatter (but can’t keep up). I am so grateful when someone pulls over to sit with me and talk slowly in French, patiently listening to my halting attempts at conversation.

Good, good challenge here.
Ann Kroeker recently posted..Vacate

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lauraparkerblog April 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm

 Yes, changing churches is a hard New Girl experience we can all related to for sure.  And I love that you are reaching out . . .

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Dena Dyer April 14, 2011 at 11:48 am

Laura, thanks for sharing this in our writing project at The High Calling.

I moved last year back to the area I grew up in, and still it was hard. Things had changed–I had changed–and not everyone has time for friends. We’re still struggling to make “couple” and “family” friends, too.

I love what you said about water and roots. It’s true–but it doesn’t make it easy! :)

Hugs to you today, from Texas. I would love to meet you in person sometime. Like Amy S., I have a feeling we’d be fast friends!!!

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lauraparkerblog April 28, 2012 at 8:30 pm

 Thanks, Dena

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Hazel Moon April 14, 2011 at 5:35 pm

Yes, I have been the new girl, but I tend to take over instead of sitting back. Maybe that is because I have also felt the pain of being new. For that reason, when I enter a new job, or a new church, I make a decision to make this job or church, mine. I treat others as if I have been there a long while and they are the new girl. Example: My second Sunday at my new church, I arrived early and greeted each member who was already seated, with a smile, a hand shake and a friendly good morning. I think they are used to me by now.
Hazel Moon recently posted..Hippies in San Francisco

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lauraparkerblog April 28, 2012 at 8:31 pm

 Hazel, LOVE this attitude . . .

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@bibledude April 15, 2011 at 9:08 am

I love what you said (and agree with Dena) about water and roots. That’s powerful, and helps put a lot of challenging things into perspective.

I’ll remember this post for a while, but am hesitant to refer to my self as either ‘new girl’ or ‘seasoned girl’… just sayin’… :-)

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Laura April 15, 2011 at 8:40 pm

haha . . . yes, of course, we wouldn’t call you either, either.

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Adriel April 19, 2011 at 7:53 am

Hi Laura. Hard isn’t it? I’ve been overseas for over ten years now, but have changed cities a few times. None have been harder than my last transition. I’ve always been so quick to make friends and easily fit in. But this last one was a doozy. Though I made lots of “friends” that I love, I have never felt like any of those friendships are really going anywhere. It’s been three years now here, so I can’t even claim New Girl anymore, though I still often feel like her. Add to that culture shock (probably much more so for you than me – I’m in Australia), ministry pressures, and raising a family away from your own family… and you have some challenges to face. No doubt you’ll eventually find your place and start gathering other New Girls under your wing. But in the meantime, grace to you! (Found you from the Community Writing Project:)

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Laura April 19, 2011 at 10:07 pm

Adriel, So glad to have met you! Loved reading your story, your experience of New Girl– even after 10 years. Hang in there– building Community can just be hard work sometimes, can’t it be?

Glad to “meet” you, new friend in Australia . . .

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Kristin Tabor April 23, 2011 at 12:45 am

Hey Laura!
I’ve gotten so much out of your insight tonight. This post struck me because I am just now not feeling like the “new girl” in WP. Isn’t it funny how something that felt so comfortable to you before going oversees was my new girl experience. Not sure how I would handle it miles from home…but it is certainly a vulnerable position. It has given me a new desire to take that extra time to say hi to the new lady at church and invite her to join in somewhere, anywhere. (:

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Laura April 23, 2011 at 1:39 am

Kristin, HEY! So glad you stopped by, girl. Yes, I totally agree that NEW GIRL and the vulnerability it brings can strike anywhere, anytime. i think you can feel like that in the States moving to a new place, just as easily as you can feel it overseas. Absolutely.

Thanks for reading, friend– hope to see you soon!

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Lisa McGown October 22, 2011 at 9:50 pm

Laura,

I came across your blog last night. Your honesty is refreshing and the fact that you are in Chiang Mai made me want to read more. We are currently raising support (with Pioneers in Orlando) to serve in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Our goal is to have 100% raised by June 2012 (Lord willing, of course). My husband will be working as a mental health counselor with The Well in Chiang Mai. I currently home school, but we plan on having them attend Grace International. I will be the new girl, and I am sure that I will have A LOT of questions. I would love for our paths to cross one day.
Sincerely, Lisa McGown

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Laura October 23, 2011 at 9:02 am

Hi Lisa! Totally, please look me up when you get here! It’s a great city to live in– despite all my complaining!! I have heard fantastic things about The Well, too– such an important ministry.

Can’t wait to see you in person at some point!

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Neeley March 6, 2012 at 4:16 am

Hey just read this one, from a link from the better missionary post…..and this one hurts…because i know that i know that i know, when you have been the one who has been around, and indeed that new girl does show up, you will not only ask questions but approach on more than one occasions, reach out, and befriend. And yes, i’ve been there, no fun at all…..He’s obviously making you stronger for it. You are a wonderful friend….and ps she’s crazy not to have asked; her loss big time!

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lauraparkerblog April 28, 2012 at 8:28 pm

 Neeley, I LOVE LOVE LOVE you. Wish we could hang out.  LIke anytime, anywhere. 

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Neeley Davie April 30, 2012 at 10:57 pm

I love you too! Yes me too! we should Skype soon! I’ll email you to set up a time. One day hopefully I can see you there in Thailand, on our way to Philli.

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Lana April 1, 2012 at 12:25 am

Yeah, I’ve been there the last two years (I came in June 2010) because I’m not apart of a missions organization, and there’s nothing typical about me. I almost took a vacation a couple weeks ago because the smoke was so bad, and then I started crying and realizing it took me two years to make friends, learn to speak the language. Two years of being the new girl, and I wasn’t ready to leave that one.

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lauraparkerblog April 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm

 Two years is a long time to struggle with feeling the outsider. . .  glad you persevered, friend!

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Megan Tucker July 21, 2013 at 2:57 am

This post is so old, but I’m only just now reading it. I’m on month two of a year commitment in Cambodia, and “New Girl” is all I’ve felt. I’m not naive enough to think that “new girl” will just disappear one day, and I know it will be a gradual settling into the culture, but I sure hope it happens quick — I’ve only got 8 months left here, and maybe another couple of years of a committment after that.

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Eliza Stine October 14, 2013 at 9:57 am

Sorry to be commenting so late, but I just stumbled upon your blog and was fascinated. I’ve been living overseas for almost 10 years now and can really sympathize with the way you felt when you wrote this- but I can also sympathize with the expat mom who didn’t engage with you too. The longer I live overseas the harder it is to engage with newcomers. It is just too hard to lose friends again and again- now I have a hard time making friends with anyone who isn’t committed for at least a year or two. Reading this post has reminded me of the importance of continuing to try. Thanks.

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Alena@TheHomemadeCreative July 25, 2014 at 9:58 pm

I’m so scared for this feeling – for being New Girl. Again. Because while I’ve yet to leave the states, I’ve left my State three times in ten years and each time I begin to no longer be New Girl, I move, and once again…am. And now…now we prepare for SE Asia. And the roots I’ve begun to put down here in northern Illinois begin to weaken, withdraw. Because I’m not staying, and the friends I’ve made know it, and it’s changed things.

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