Lately I’ve been doing a fair bit of writing on re-entry transition because, well, I’m several months into repatriation after four years in the Netherlands. I do so not simply because it’s what is foremost in my thoughts and daily actions, but also to understand.
Writing about repatriation helps me grasp significance, identify patterns, comprehend the alien environment in which I find myself. It aids me both from a big-picture perspective as well as a nitty, gritty, detailed level.
I don’t automatically assume because something’s happening to me that it’s of interest to others. Actually it’s quite the inverse: the likelihood something’s been happening to others, too, is of interest to me. Instead of being a one-way signal bleating out into the darkness — look at me! what about this?! then this happened! — I’m far more interested in being a transponder, picking up signals in addition to sending them out.
While I understand the allure of ‘write what you know’, I find more attractive the concept of ‘write what you’re unsure of.’
There’s something cathartic about blogging, in the gathering of your thoughts on the page, daring to put into words what is still being sifted about in your brain, trying to discern a particular rhyme and reason to help make some sense of it all. I suppose it helps me feels less adrift, more grounded, not simply reacting to each development and every little thing.
Rather than reeking of hubris, I find the vulnerability of being unsure, of not having a sense of certainty, freeing. It turns what can be seen as a one-sided monologue into a conversation; it facilitates connection. In turn, I know there is a community of others out there who will share their insights and experiences, helping to shine a light on my path from the lantern of their own.
And so it goes with repatriation in general, the re-entry transition in particular. It’s riddled with change and leaving and loss, but along the way I’ve come to appreciate the gift of reinvention this major life change has presented.
It’s certainly not limited to those of us navigating the shoals of return, either. Anyone gearing up for a move of any sort — across town, province/state, country, continent or planet — is doing a version of the same dance, albeit with fewer or added layers of complexity depending on the individual circumstance.
You don’t even have to be moving anywhere at all to be caught up in the maelstrom of change: a shift in careers, raising children or facing an empty nest, meeting/marrying/de-coupling from the person of your dreams, upsizing or downsizing to find the ephemeral ‘right-sizing’, tweaking a part of your life which just doesn’t feel ‘right’, stumbling upon a new activity or interest which consumes your time and attention, becoming part of a greater cause.
We’re all in the process of reinventing ourselves, aren’t we? Just in different ways, for different reasons, and at different paces.
I say ‘gift’ when I refer to reinvention, but the truth is a good part of building a new life (or altering an existing one) is meeting requirements: filling in the blanks, checking the boxes, adding color and detail. Beginning with the most basic, physiological needs such as arranging for shelter and being clothed and fed, we work our way up the pyramid of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (to which I’ve always appended ‘and Wants that become Needs’).
We nail down physical safety, which encourages emotional security. We seek employment, property, resources before turning our attention to relationships, acceptance and a sense of belonging. Feeling a part of community and cared for, we can seek fulfillment of higher-level needs such as respecting and being respected by others, achievement, confidence, and feeling good about ourselves.
If we’re fortunate, Maslow’s interpretation of human needs leads us to self-actualization: realizing the innate need to meet our fullest potential, our intended purpose, whatever that may be.
And woven throughout it all? Our changing sense of identity — sometimes shifting imperceptibly, other times being altered to our core, impacted by our experiences — who we are, what we value, what we strive for, what matters most.
Over time, what I’m coming to appreciate more and more is the richness of the opportunity to reinvent, re-imagine, redefine.
It permeates choices from where I live and how I make the blank canvas of that place ‘home’, to the kind of work I wish to do and the activities I decide to give my focus and energy. It’s there in who I surround myself with or seek out, and how I choose to rejuvenate, replenish, restore and recreate.
Whether I have a clear vision of who I want to be or feel the need to try things on to ensure a proper fit, it all boils down to determining who I am and fulfilling those escalating needs (and pesky wants). It’s about priorities. And growth.
It involves the fullness of choice and the luxury of opportunity. It’s not given to us, it’s hard-fought, but there for the taking. Often difficult and messy, sometimes uncomfortable or painful, I’m finding I wouldn’t trade the gift of reinvention for anything.
Today I’m joining fellow expat/repat, new found friend and NC neighbor Cate over at SmallPlanetStudios for her monthly #MyGlobalLife LinkUp. Why not join us?