There’s this research that was done back in the 60s all about the amount of stress people go through with various life events. Holmes-Rahe is often mentioned, even by those who don’t know the details of it, to talk about how death, marriage, divorce, pregnancy, and birth can all be so stressful and life-altering that they put a serious toll on the person or people involved. I looked up the stress inventory, as it’s called, and moving or changing residence is towards the bottom of the list. Clearly, these researchers had no idea what they were talking about – starting over in a new country has been one of the most tumultuous things I’ve ever done.
It’s not just the physical moving that’s been difficult, although of course, that has as well. Moving day was a nightmare, one that was compounded by the fact that we were getting on a plane at the end of it. But it’s so, so much more than that. There was all the stress of leaving, the stress of getting things done when we arrived, and only now that we are slowly settling in am I finally unpacking it all – literally and figuratively.
It hit home for me when I sent a message to my awesome group of mom friends about how I wanted to start meal planning as a means of sorting out our lives and also helping with living on some form of a budget and schedule again. Jonelle, the amazing voice of wisdom behind the Tyranny of Pink, laughed when I said that I had actually forgotten what all our favorite meals were, and she said that I’d need to start over. Really, I feel like that has been the story of my life for months.
We had to start over with school. After finally having Harley settled in an amazing school in South Africa, one where she was loved and happy and comfortable after a very difficult start, we had to pull her out and move her to a new country. She spent about four months with me and Dean, 24 hours a day, and then started at her new school here in Arizona. The school is lovely but very different, and she is being a trooper, but that whole adjustment thing has felt like starting over again.
Our home has pretty much had to be built up again from scratch. Because of the expense of moving, we packed up 10 boxes of stuff that took the slowest journey to us. In fact, the boxes were collected the week before we left South Africa, and they should only be arriving this coming week. We left with three suitcases. Granted, we’ve bought things since then – a new braai for Dean, a coffee pot, a TV, couch and coffee table. We are slowly building up this home of ours, buying only things that we really love. But it’s been starting from nothing, and while it’s wonderful to have furniture that Dean and I picked out together and adore, it’s also incredibly difficult and stressful.
But there are also some intangible things that can be hard to wrap my head around. We need to build up a credit history, figure out health insurance in a system that is somehow more backward than what we had in Africa. We need to get oriented in our new neighborhood, meet people and one day make friends. And after spending so very much money to move, and then to buy glorious furniture for the house, and to even just buy plates and pots and pans, it almost feels like we are starting over financially as well. Granted, we will be way better off here than we were in South Africa within a relatively short amount of time. But it still feels like starting over, probably because, in many ways, it is.
It is stressful and overwhelming and so scary… and yet also incredibly liberating. We get to reinvent our lives here. We have the most glorious house that is about three or four times our old place in South Africa (I did a facebook live tour that you can watch here). It’s a home that lets us dream bigger, imagine more. A place where I can picture Harley growing up, playing at the playground. We might only have a small amount of stuff right now, but it feels ready to grow with us, however our lives might change.
I remember when my family moved to Holland when I was a teenager. In many ways, it was a scary time then, too, in large part because my parents realized they couldn’t be together anymore within moments of arriving in The Netherlands. And yet, it was also one of the most incredible and transformational times in my life. I became a true international citizen of the world, I met some amazing friends who shaped my life and who I still love to this day. I also was given the opportunity to reinvent myself to classmates, teachers and everyone else. It was hard, and yet so liberating. And I keep thinking this move will be the same for us.
I’m looking forward to getting our boxes of stuff. The more our life can feel like normal, the easier things are getting. But so far, almost nothing feels normal. We are getting there, and I’m hoping that now that I have an office of my own and a kid who sometimes goes to sleep before I’m ready to pass out in bed myself, I can finally return to blogging like I used to. I have missed it, and I have missed all of you who read my words. Thank you for sticking around to see what I have to say. I promise I will share more soon. Like all about how my kid suddenly turned TWO!
For now, suffice it to say that it’s been like rebooting a modem. We needed to turn everything off and on because we just weren’t getting anywhere before. It’s taken some time to get going again, but starting over should let us soar ahead way faster now. At least, that’s what I’m counting on.