We’re behind on our blogging, in part because it hasn’t seemed like the right time to share new posts about our lives here. Like so many back home, we have been consumed with the news – there are so many people in distress in NC, and so much anger and hostility around politics. Writing about our life here has not seemed like a priority.
I repeatedly hear people tell me how lucky we are, what an adventure we are having, and what an incredible experience this must be. From the outside looking in, I can see how that how would seem. But from the insider’s perspective, I can tell you that while we are enormously grateful for this opportunity to explore a new country and culture, this has also been one of the biggest lessons of my life so far.
And the lessons are so many, and across such a broad spectrum, sometimes I don’t even know where to begin. It feels like every day I am learning and adjusting to at least one new thing.
At a very high level, I have learned the difference between change and transition. (Thank God for the Her Corner members who run businesses as change management consultants or leadership coaches, for pointing me towards the resources to understand the psychological and emotional stages of transition.)
William Bridges (a leading expert on transition) shares that “change is situational. Transition, on the other hand, is psychological. … All transitions are composed of (1) an ending, (2) a neutral zone, and (3) a new beginning. … One of the reasons it is so difficult to assess these things is that the impact of transition upon us does not necessarily bear any relation to the apparent importance of the change that triggered it. One person may be brought to a complete standstill by a divorce or a job loss, but another person may take it in stride.”
I have begun to understand why Jesse seemed to breeze through the first stage of transition, but the kids and I were stuck there for a while; we had trouble accepting that something had ended. And I can now recognize that I’m currently in the neutral zone, but heading towards a new beginning, and that this is ok.
At a more granular level, I am learning to just live here. This past week we moved to a new house at the beach – it is small, but beautiful. But as with any move, I am trying to sort out how to set up cable, wifi, and track down an electrician. I am trying to sort out what to do with my kids during their upcoming two-week vacation – the US infrastructure of camps isn’t as established here. I am trying to sort out how to get things, when online shopping is no longer part of my life. And I am trying to learn how to live in a culture where excess is frowned upon. Less is more – across the board – from the size of your house, to the stuff you own.
This transition has forced me to ask myself questions about how we have lived in the States, and what we really need in our lives. Did all the stuff we accumulated in the States bring us happiness? Or was it just for the sake of convenience?
When we left I sold my luxury SUV; right now I’m driving a 2005 van of some sort. Do I care? Yes. Because I’m still me, and I’m still vain. But does it matter? I’m beginning to learn that it does not. It just doesn’t. I’m still going to get to the same places: school drop-off and pick-up, the grocery store, home. Does it matter how I look as I’m driving there? I’m not so sure anymore.
Another big change has been moving to a cash basis. In the States we managed our finances by putting just about everything on a credit card (I’d like to tell you it was mostly so that we could get all those points, but in reality, it was just for convenience – just buy it now, don’t ask yourself whether it’s the right time, tell yourself it’s because you’re too busy to think about it, and just pay for it later…)
Here, we don’t use a credit card – except to book travel. Everything we buy we pay for in cash. It forces me to think about how we spend our money, and where. We have always lived within our means, but here, we live on less. And that feels nice.
Who we spend time with, and who our kids spend time with, is also changing. I love that here my kid’s friend’s parents have jobs that are so completely different from their friend’s parents at home. Here they are exposed to people who work in forestry, fishing, and the arts. At home, I struggle to name one friend whose parent isn’t a doctor, a lawyer, a policy maker … you get the point. The conversations here are therefore different – less about the kitchen remodels, European vacations, private tutors and school applications. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful for those conversations – they are the world we live in in the States – it’s just different here. And again, the change of subject is liberating.
I could go on and on, but I may have made a few haters out of this blog post; and so be it. I promised to be honest, not to try to please!
Next week we lose Lucas for a week as he heads out to “Adventure Week” – from Sunday to Friday he will be in Aukland with his school going skiing, luging, sky-lining (whatever the heck that is,) trampoline-ing, and any number of other extreme sports you can think of. He is so excited, and we are happy to see him so happy.
Chloe has been selected to compete in the finals for public speaking at her school on Monday. Her topic: plastic straws, of course! I am so proud of her for taking on a new challenge that she had never done before, for watching Ted talks to learn from others, and for practicing again and again.
Spring Break is right around the corner and we’re planning a road trip through the North Island – visits to Hobbiton, the Glow Worm caves, skiing, and cool hikes.
We are lucky to be on this adventure, to see this gorgeous country, and to open our eyes to other ways of living. It’s not easy to live through the transition, but I do recognize how lucky we are.
 Bridges, William. Transitions: Making Sense Of Life’s Changes