Right before my freak horse accident, I’d written about my love of planning, developing a routine, and writing down things I’m grateful for to help me through this transition phase of my life.
I was getting into my zone: I was on board the positive headspace train, with my sticky note of gratitude and things to look forward to in the coming weeks. I’d been attending swing dancing classes on Mondays. I was 2/3 through an 80 day weight lifting program I was loving, and ready to up my weights. I’d been successful with making Friday and Saturday night plans every weekend to explore what little nightlife Stavanger has to offer (booze & booze & booze & booze).
More importantly, I was determined to get through this adjustment phase of settling into a new country without a hitch. I pictured myself seamlessly transitioning to my life here and forming a steady routine. I was sure that if I powered through, I could bypass a lot of the pain and frustration that comes with starting your life anew.
Except I couldn’t.
Suddenly, I found myself in a situation where I had to cancel all of these plans I’d made because I could barely walk without popping ibuprofen.
My routine got put on hold, and my main priority became (and still is) getting through the day.
I was frustrated and upset over forcibly giving up my routine. I thought I’d gotten over the hump and things would be smooth sailing from here, and then this happened. I was mad my plans had been disrupted. My workout program would have to wait. Walking the extra blocks to the nicer grocery store with the better produce would have to wait. Exploring would have to wait.
I got to a point where I couldn’t crack open my calendar for several weeks because I didn’t want to confront the reality of being bound to my walkable radius.
As I’ve spent the last month nursing my knee back to health, my workload surged. I thought I had an advantage from my previous years at the same company in Houston. Instead, I had to also face the reality of learning an entirely different way of working, while navigating new challenges thrown in my direction.
I was under the impression when I moved here – from what everyone’s told me about working in Norway – that working hours are far more manageable compared to the US; one former colleague I’d spoken to several months ago told me this would be the most relaxed working environment I’d ever encounter, with cushy hours to match.
If I ever see that person again, I’ll be sure to laugh in his face.
Instead, I’ve worked more since I’ve gotten here than I ever did in the US.
That’s not a bad thing – I see plenty of opportunity for me to rise to the occasion and learn a lot. I welcome the challenge. But it was a shock to what I’d been expecting.
Regulations prevent people from working too much here, they said.
Tell that to my 60-80 hour work weeks.
In some ways both of these things – managing an injury and re-setting my expectations for my new work life here – have been eternally frustrating for me. I’d been on a roll of doing activities for my personal development to keep the right attitude: a daily devotional. writing. maintaining a calendar. reading. But for the last month, I’ve had no desire to do any of those things. Instead, my devotional, journal, Bible, books, and planner have sat on my coffee table collecting dust as I sit here and try to process everything.
From this, I’m learning a few things.
It’s all part of the journey.
Sure, that sounds obvious. Or it should. I’m not sure there was ever a final destination of “feeling settled in Norway” in my game plan – or if that’s something I’ll actually ever achieve. Life’s curveballs aside, I’ve removed the restrains I’ve put on my emotions to conceal the things I’m feeling, and I’m learning to allow myself the indulgence of experiencing them as they come. It’s freeing and confusing at the same time.
I’m already a very passionate person, so raw, unbridled emotion is an intense occurrence for me. But never in my life have I experienced such a dichotomy of feelings all at once. Some days I feel incredibly empowered by my decision to come here, and yet in the same breath I am consumed with doubt; I feel excited and terrified; stressed and empowered; lonely and loved. Some moments I walk out of meetings feeling triumphant because I brought my A Game. Other times I fear I’ll be discovered as a fraud, attempting to figure things out as I go. Sometimes I walk out of the gym feeling good about myself, until I walk past the next mirror and mentally tear myself apart. I’m not sure what to make of this rush of conflicting emotions, which oftentimes waffle by the hour.
It can be a scary thing to sit alone and confront the reality of the things you’re feeling and sort through it while also trying to remain positive and optimistic.
I know my situation is far from unique. But some days are just really fucking hard. And allowing myself to admit it’s hard is probably the biggest favor I’ve done for myself since I made the decision to take this leap.
I feel stronger.
I’ve been here almost 3 months, but my first few days here feel like forever ago.
That said, I am so much stronger than I was then.
My first few days here were terrifying. My first trip to the grocery store felt like an insurmountable task that ended in tears. Going somewhere in the city was an onerous journey which couldn’t be done without the aid of Google Maps. Going out into this wilderness of mine alone was daunting. In many ways, it still is. But all of those apprehensions have since been calloused with experience. Most days, whether I’m at work or wandering the streets of Stockholm alone on a bum knee (Happy Easter to me!) my goal is simple: I just want to make it through the day with a little bit of grace, and a whole lot of grit. Even on my hardest days, where I long for the comforts of home, I am still doing just that. I am making it through each day. I am making it work. I’ve learned that I can, in fact, move to a new country by myself. I am learning to go without some things I was used to in the US for the sake of saving money (I will never again take for granted the affordability of going to get a pedicure while you pay someone to clean your house). I’ve met 2 people whom I can call a friend here by striking up a conversation with a random stranger on the bus. I’ve gotten through a random, freak accident. I go to church most Sundays. Overall, I’m doing okay for myself.
As someone who believes in God’s plan and a sense of higher purpose for my life, I question what lies ahead on my journey that required me to gain this strength on my own. Strength that, quite frankly, I did not know I was capable of having. It may be years until I know the answer to that; but even after hectic weeks like the one I just had, filled with stress and a palpable sense of discomfort, I feel grateful I get to experience these growing pains, because I know they make me a better person. In this case, my gratitude is boundless – as my perspective on life is evolving with rapid pace.
I’m finally getting back into the swing of things, where I have the desire to look forward to the days ahead. I’ve reset my expectations towards work, and understand my life is going to remain pretty hectic for the foreseeable future. I’m okay with this, of course, because I chose it.
The days are getting longer here, and the northernmost part of the Earth is starting to tilt towards the sun. Norwegians are packing up their skis and big winter coats for the year and smiling, because they’re seeing sunnier days ahead for the first time in a long time.
So am I.