Reflections.

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.

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Minor Setback.

I was on the verge of giving up 2 weekends ago.

A coworker of mine invited me to go Icelandic Horseback riding with her along the Norwegian countryside (yes, that’s a thing). I was super happy to get the invite. I was excited for the opportunity to bond with a new colleague, and the handful of times I’ve been horseback riding in the US, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Looking back, I think the moment the horse started galloping, I realized I’d made a gross over assumption in my abilities to ride a horse – or at least a breed I’d never been on before. Within the first 20 minutes of the ride, we approached iced over train tracks. My horse slipped and fell. I fell with it, and the horse landed on my knee.

I am not exaggerating when I say in the moment, it was one of the most traumatizing things that’s ever happened to me. I sat in snow, ice, and horse shit, clutching my knee and wailing in pain as a few things sped through my mind.

My first thought was devastation. I thought my knee was broken. There was no way it could handle the force of a 2,000 pound animal at any velocity. I was in the middle of an intense weight lifting program that I’ve been loving, and thought of not being able to continue the next day – or at all – absolutely crushed me.

My second thought was a mixture of shame and loneliness. I was embarrassed for being in a situation that had gotten out of control, and for sobbing in a pile of horse shit in front of my new coworker. Added to that, I’m alone in Norway, and I’m carless. I decided in that moment that, if my knee was broken, I would be on the first flight home to Houston.

When my coworker called an ambulance, a third thought went through my mind: the ambulance bill. I was (and still am) already stressing about finances. I have a mortgage payment in the US and rent in Norway to cover, until my condo gets rented. I’m adjusting to a new financial routine in the midst of a paycut, higher taxes, and a more expensive country. (The bill still hasn’t come – so I suppose this is still TBD).

I spent a solid 20 minutes shivering and crying on the ground before the ambulance came. My pants were soaked from the ice and snow. The paramedics looked at me and immediately ran medical scissors up the leg of my all-time favorite pair of jeans. I was saddened, but knew it would have been silly to get upset over a pair of jeans. I’ve been learning (and re-learning) lessons in the unimportance of material possessions a lot, recently.

The paramedics knew little English, so they assessed my condition in Norwegian with my coworker. I had no idea what they were saying. As they wrapped up my leg and placed me in a stretcher, I felt this complete loss of control of the situation. I couldn’t stop my body from shivering. I couldn’t stand up by myself. I couldn’t stop crying, and I could barely speak coherently due to shock. I didn’t know what was happening. Suffice to say, I was very, very scared.

On the plus side, I’d never ridden in an ambulance before.

At the hospital, the doctor asked me if I was wearing underwear under my jeans. I replied, “barely”. He smirked, and proceed to finish the deed of destroying my beloved Gap “Sexy Bootcut” style jeans that I’d proudly broken in for the last 10 years by cutting me out of my jeans and tossing the well-worn denim in a trash can labeled, “Avfall” – Norwegian for “waste”.

My heart twinged in defeat, as did my almost-bare ass.

The doctor immediately assessed that my knee wasn’t broken. He was shocked. I was lucky, he said, because the X-Ray machine was at another facility, and very expensive. He sent me on my way. My first interaction with Scandinavian medicine amounted to a cup of coffee, a strong ibuprofen, and a $30 bill – suitable remedies for both knee injuries and bad hangovers, apparently.

I’ve since spent the last 10 days both recovering and processing everything that’s happened.

Physically, my knee is healing quickly. The swelling has gone down, and the bruising will hopefully fade soon. Although I’ve been popping ibuprofen like a champ and relying on a handy-dandy pack of frozen blueberries, my knee is still sore and I imagine it will be another few weeks before I can attempt to exercise my legs again.

Mentally and emotionally, I’ve felt overcome by a strong dichotomy of feelings all at once. I’m upset I can’t hit the gym, and I’m impatient to do so – but I feel so lucky and blessed my knee wasn’t broken. I legitimately believe it to be a miracle, and I try to dedicate my focus on my luck rather than my impatience.

I’ve also had to learn to surrender the overly-independent part of me that doesn’t like to rely on people for help. It’s not that I don’t want help, I just feel immensely awful for being a burden on others, so I don’t. That day, I had no choice.

My coworker was so wonderful at comforting me. When I was on the ground crying, she wrapped her arms around me and told me that our legs are very strong and made to withstand life’s bumps, bruises, falls, and kicks. She arranged my transport to the hospital, and acted as my translator. She drove me home and checked up on me that weekend. It’s not a typical way of bonding with your coworkers, but I am grateful for her support.

On the afternoon of the accident, I knew I had to go to the grocery store that day, because it was closed on Sunday, and I had a long work week ahead. I slowly, and painfully limped to the grocery store down the street. As I hobbled home, I started crying. In that moment, I felt the weight of being alone in a new country in a way I previously had not. I looked up and told God that I couldn’t handle this alone. Halfway home, I ran into a woman I met on the bus my first week here, and her husband. She’s an expat from Houston. They immediately carried my groceries the rest of the way home. Later, she brought me homemade dinner. I was overwhelmed by her kindness – and for the divine timing of my frustrated plea.

I had a Tinder coffee date scheduled for the day after my accident. I was clearly not going anywhere that day, so I canceled on the stranger I’d swiped right on. I felt somewhat relieved, in all honesty, because dating apps get old quickly. He checked in on Sunday evening to see how I was doing. Upon further conversation, we learned his office is across the street from mine. He kindly offered me a ride to work Monday morning. I typically don’t give strangers my home address, but the thought of walking to the bus stop sounded terrible that day. I accepted. On Monday morning, my ride pulled up to my doorstep in the form of a large, black van. Preoccupied with my wound, I limped to his car, where I learned my driver / Tinder match was wheelchair bound. He has MS. He asked me how my leg was. Dumbfounded, I told him I was not going to complain about my leg to him. I could still walk. My leg was going to heal.

My first few days last week were tough. I limped everywhere and popped ibuprofen like a champ as I pondered the unsettling feeling of fluid between my knee cap and bone. I did not know when my knee would heal, or if there was further damage. I was working long hours and felt stressed and lost without the comfort of my weight room sanctuary. The negative feelings towards my knee also quickly permeated other thoughts. Feelings of homesickness flared up inside me, and in some moments, I was convinced I sucked at my job, at life, and that I’d go broke and remain alone with my bum knee forever. A little dramatic, yes, but it’s a testament to the power of negativity, and why it’s so important to fight that rot with faith, optimism, and a dash of rationality.

So far, there are no obvious signs of lasting damage. I feel grateful, and my fingers remain crossed. I am still taking it easy because letting my body heal itself is far more important than my impatience to get back to the gym.

Right now, all of this still feels very real. I’m getting through it, yes, and I also know eventually this will be a minor setback, a funny story, and sweet source of street cred. Perhaps I sound hyperbolic to friends, or the average reader perusing through my blog. After all, moving to a new country is a huge adjustment – my adjustment process just happens to include falling to the ground beneath a large animal. No sweat.

No, I’m not throwing my hands up in pitiful defeat. I’m down, but I won’t be down for long. It will, however, be a long-ass time before I get near a horse again.

When, Then.

Being goal oriented and ambitious are among my greatest strengths. Armed with heavy doses of rigidity and discipline (I promise I don’t have a stick up my ass all the time), I take great pride in my ability to fix my gaze upon a certain focus area and hustle until I achieve it.

There’s a certain high that comes with the actual achievement of a goal. My obsession with getting from ‘Point A’ to ‘Point B’ often overshadows the value of the journey itself,  and the solution to that post-high crash has always come in finding a new ‘Point B’ to set my sights on. As I’ve navigated through the last few years, I’ve found myself suffocating from this mentality because I lose out on the story of how my journey unfolds – which is the entire point of having goals in the first place. I’ve been so hung up on visualizing happiness as a ‘Point B’, that the whole concept of happiness was lost on me precisely because I mislabeled it as a mythological point I was desperate to identify.

When I get to Point B, Then, I will be happy.

Although that motivates me to get to Point B, I was always disappointed to learn “my happy” was not there.

To that extent, I’ve been disappointed a lot over the last few years.

When I complete this vegan cleanse, Then I’ll be happy.

When I’m in a relationship, Then I’ll be happy.

When I end the relationship, Then I’ll be happy.

When I move into my new living space, Then I’ll be happy.

When I go on this trip, Then I’ll be happy.

When I am able to hold a plank for 3 minutes, Then I’ll be happy.

When I eat clean 85% of the time, Then I’ll be happy.

When I inhale this pint of Ben & Jerry’s, Then I’ll be happy. (Okay, I was pretty happy then.)

When I get promoted, Then I’ll be happy.

When I move to Norway, Then I’ll be happy.

Once I got to these goals, my default was to move the goal posts of ‘my happy’, because by then, Point B no longer impressed me; there was no point in marveling at the journey because I was already here, and happiness was not. Therefore, I sought after ‘Point Cs’, – meaning I never gave myself credit for the work it took to get here.

After more than a few bouts of this, the self-induced disappointment was soul-crushing.

I became obsessed with my When, Thens, or finding this nonexistent permanent Nirvana where only happiness exists, and nothing else, which is so ridiculous, even I struggle to understand how or why I thought this way for so long.

What I overlooked is the immense joy to be found from my journey to each goal. Even in the midst of chasing this proverbial boogeyman of mine, I must admit that I sub-consciously tried to live out the joy that comes with breakthroughs, small progresses, and mundane victories – only I didn’t let myself fully embrace it. I harped on my past failures and mistakes and as further punishment did not allow myself to experience joy found in the baby steps towards greatness.

If I knew then what I know now, I would’ve been here much faster. 

It’s okay to relentlessly chase goals – but part of that means giving yourself permission to not be perfect. If you focus on the When, Then state-of-mind, you’ll never find happy, because Then is always out of reach. Being human means being a forever work-in-progress. “It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” sounds like a wanky cliche written on the back of Chicken Soul for the Soul – but I’m coming to accept that if I treat my current self with kindness, the future me will be easier to create.

I think moving to Norway was the zenith of my slew of When, Thens, precisely because I pictured a romanticized life of instant gratification and enlightenment without the challenges and growth required to attain those things.

Although that romantic image is still being developed, I can’t help but catch myself feeling great joy because I am here. Even in the midst of my worries, fears, and unknowns, I smile because it took a lot of work to get here, and I can feel that I’m building something great.

I have many When, Thens floating around in the back of my mind that could inhibit the joy I find in living out this particular Then. I still have many things I want to do that, make me feel antsy because they’re currently sitting, untouched, on the mental to-do list. I have a lot of goals that have been put on hold for now, for the sake of the next few years, and I have to fight the urge to beat myself up for not prioritizing everything at once. But I recognize this opportunity as too great to dismiss without enjoyment. Instead, I am in the process of learning to find peace with where I currently am. It’s not a bad place to be.

It’s not a final destination. It’s a process.

When I focus on the joy of where I am today, Then I will be happy.

 

Positive Vibes.

Things have been crazy busy these last few weeks. I’m stunned it’s already mid-March.

I went from trying to find things to do at work to being swamped almost instantaneously. The last two weeks have flown by, and I’ve been told to prepare for 4-5 weeks of long hours.

Suffice to say, I’m in the thick of things. I’m happy to be in this place right now, because it’s giving me a sense of purpose when I wake up each morning. I really need that.

I’m getting excited about my own opportunities here, both at work and in my personal life. I know I write about feeling overwhelmed and down, with a strong emphasis on events from the recent past – and I still feel those things in one way or another – but it doesn’t paint a fair picture to only focus on these things.

As I head into my sixth week here, I’m still engulfed in uncertainty. Not uncertainty in a bad way, but uncertainty in a sense that I don’t really know what each day will bring, what my workload will look like, or what things I’ll be able to accomplish. There have been days where I have free time in the evenings to head to the gym, make myself a leisurely dinner, or go to Swing Dancing class, and there have been days I’ve taken work home, cancelled plans, and put off cleaning my kitchen counter for another day (or five). I don’t mind the chaos of all of this. After all, I did ask for it. But being in the middle of this wave of ‘everything at once’ means I don’t know what to expect each day, and sometimes it’s hard to keep pushing forward instead of throwing my hands up and getting absorbed by the current.

To keep my thoughts grounded, I’ve relied on a notepad to write down literally everything on my mind. Things I need to do, grocery lists, random thoughts, motivational quotes, potential plans – I’m swimming in sticky notes over here. But it helps me only forget 15% of the things in my head instead of the usual 35%.

Last week I started making a list of the things I was grateful for. I decided to continue that practice this week, adding on things I am looking forward to in the coming week. It’s my way of channeling that sense of purpose I have into even more positive energy, which carries me through my day. This week, I’m lucky enough to have a long list of things to look forward to, both big and small.

  1. I’m pretty hyped up about work. When I get into a spreadsheet grove, I smile. It’s geeky, but it’s why I’m here.
  2. The opportunity for overtime (and overtime pay – one of the benefits of the Norwegian labor system
  3. Swing dance class – because if I’m abandoning my comfort zone, I might as well go all in.
  4. Someone told me where to find the International Grocery Store in town, where I will be able to find cumin. Cumin!!! They also sell fresh Garlic Naan – which is now my Friday reward for an intense week.
  5. I had a really full weekend. I went hiking in some serious snow in the mountains about an hour south of Stavanger. As I was climbing up a mountain while knee deep in snow – in March – it hit me that I’m actually living in Norway. (It’s been hitting me repeatedly at random times lately. Like when I spent $7 on a Bell Pepper at the grocery store last Friday.) I ended my Saturday with a 4 hour, 10-course meal at a high-end restaurant with random booshy Scandys I’d never met before. I hadn’t planned to, but I spent way too much money on good food and wine – and had one of the top 5 most posh experiences of my life. I am grateful for these experiences.
  6. I met a nice girl I’d really like to be friends with.
  7. I have fun plans next weekend, too.
  8. I’m understanding more and more Norwegian.

Perhaps there’s hope for me afterall.

Happy Monday!

My sign.

I am a Christian.

I go to church, I read writings from apologetics, I do devotionals, I pray – I even have a cross tattooed behind my ear, in the most basic of white girl fashions. I know better than to believe I can do life without God – I fervently believe I am blessed, in spite of myself, because He is in it. I believe diligently, and privately. I’m not ashamed of my faith, but I do feel a little out of place speaking about it openly. It’s a personal relationship for me, a taboo in today’s culture, and, quite frankly, some of the people who praise God so publicly strike me as a tad insincere. Osteenian, even.

Most of my close friends are not religious. In fact, some of the people closest to me are harsh critics of Christianity and / or vocal atheists. This has never bothered me. If i’m honest, I feel like I fit in more with the intellects and the skeptics than those who believe because their parents instructed them to. I’ve tried to join young adult bible studies or singles groups at churches in Houston, but it’s never kindled my faith in an inspiring way. A lot of those groups are just a bunch of single people who go to church to seek a spouse. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but the content of those groups have always come off as a little too vanilla for my liking. I’ve always felt a little isolated in my faith, which likely contributes to why I seldom talk about it unless prompted.

Lately, I’ve really struggled in my faith – which absolutely kills me. In a time where I’ve endured immense pain and sadness, I’ve felt both alone and distant from God in some aspects of my life, even though I am clearly watching His hand shape my life in others. I can easily look back at the last 3 years and see God’s work in shaping the foundation of my career. I firmly believe He opened the express lane to Norway just for me – a story I will soon share. But for the last year or so, almost every other part of my life has left me desperate for answers, and immensely frustrated for coming up short.

Part of this is my own fault. I’m impatient. I want so badly to be in control of my life – including the parts I’m incapable of having control over. I want a crystal ball that tells me what the answers and steps are so I can proceed with Type A gusto instead of blind apprehension (In other words, the complete opposite of faith). I want to plan and prepare and be a control freak, if only to give off the illusion that I have my shit together at all times. I want to say I’m embracing the growing pains that shape the woman I am without really enduring the hardship and pressure that growing paints actually entail. I want to be grateful for what I cannot yet see, because it’s a form of protection for what I’m not quite ready to handle. Instead, I over-analyze every outcome my small mind can fathom – an act in futility, since the outcome is never what I predict. I understand that God creates miracles in our lives our small, human minds cannot conceive until they are here. I understand this because I’ve seen it in my life time and time again. But I burn endless calories and brain power trying to predict and force my way to the next step regardless, as though I can outsmart fate, faith, God, and life. I even try not thinking about these things too hard. I really am that stubborn.

Several months ago I started throwing my hands up in the air in frantic, overwhelming defeat. I don’t have any answers, and I have no idea what I’m supposed to do, why I’m here, and where to go next. I reached my wits end at this eternal guessing game – a moment that coincided with the domino effect that quickly led me to Norway, no less. After that, I was filled with hope again. I proceeded with confidence, gave away my belongings, and hopped on a plane to live in a place I’d never been.

Since then, I’ve again thrown up my hands in vexation, in anger, in sadness, and in uncomfortable uncertainty. I’m here, God. What more do you want from me?! When does this get easier?! It’s only been a month. I know. But emotions and feelings are not rational beasts – particularly when they’re the only things around to keep you company.

I was frustrated I didn’t waltz into my new role at work and find a rhythm on Day One. I’m frustrated at my own discontentment with my loneliness – despite this being a choice I made, and would make again. I felt heartbroken when a new coworker who realized I was religious proudly said to me, “You know Norway is the least religious country on earth, right?” (He was wrong. Norway is the fifth least religious country in the world). I’m irritated at how difficult and exhausting this adjustment is, and how everything doesn’t fall into place just because I showed up. I’m frustrated because every day since I’ve gotten here I’ve prayed to God for comfort, for peace with where I currently am, and assurance that things will get better. I’ve begged for a sign that He’s close by. I’m almost certain there have been subtle signs along the way, but I’ll be honest; I’m pretty fucking dense. I need a lightning bolt and booming voice, or – better yet – an actual sign that smacks me in the face. These are the things you cry out for when you’re low on faith.

It’s contrary to my push-it-down, hold-it-in nature, but I’ve learned to be more open with some of my struggles. When people ask me how I’m doing, I don’t lie and say I’m doing well, or that I’m fine. I admit that I’m still adjusting. But I don’t tell people that I can go from feeling like a brave expat living in Europe to an emotional basket case at the drop of a hat. I don’t tell people that I’m frustrated because my life feels hard sometimes (I mean, it’s first world problems. Do people really want to hear about that?). I don’t tell people that I often inexplicably burst into tears because I’m overwhelmed or because that new thing I tried was a dud (The beauty of Norwegian aloofness is that nobody will ask you why you’re sobbing on the bus).

Yesterday was a particularly Sad-urday (sadder than that pun). I went to an event that was posted in a Facebook expat group and nobody talked to me. I wandered the room for a bit before I left, defeated by my bold idea to make new friends.

My negativity consumed me on the walk home. If I don’t make friends here, then I’ll move home in exactly 23 months, so it’s fine.

I wrestled with my coworker’s comment, which still echoed in the back of my mind. How can I find a partner in life in a profoundly atheist country? What if I don’t? I’m going to die alone.

I ran into a mediocre Bumble date at the gym, and actually thought twice about whether I should give it another shot. He’s emotionally immature and sort of looks like Porky Pig, but if he’s paying for dinner….?

I went to bed last night with my same plea to God: I asked for Him to speak to me and soothe my troubled heart.  I begged for literal words that I can’t question, because I, embarrassingly, shamefully, find myself with such little faith. I’m not on the verge of giving up or losing complete hope, but I will admit I’ve reached my wits end with feeling so, so isolated from the sole source of eternal comfort I have here (or in life).

I woke up and went to church this morning. I didn’t go last Sunday because it takes 2 busses and 45 minutes to get to this church and, well, it’s really cold to withstand being outside for that long. (There are two English speaking churches in Stavanger – both pretty far away. This one feels more American, thus familiar, so I’d resolved to come back). I felt pretty guilty about skipping last week, so I knew I needed to be there today.

It’s funny how I can sit in a pew of a megachurch all of my life, with its fantastic minister and 7,000 member support system, and not appreciate the community and resources I have around me. That is, until I attend a worship service with 30 other people in a mostly Godless country and be moved to quiet tears by praise music (which I normally dread). I wouldn’t say it was magical, but it was most unexpected. After the service the man sitting behind me tapped me on the shoulder and handed me a folded up piece of paper.

Sign

Normally I’d be a little creeped out – or at least taken aback – at this. But in this moment, I glanced at the note only to quickly stuff it in my pocket, as I was swept away in conversation by members of the congregation. I didn’t have time to process the weird note I’d just received from a total stranger.

Later, I found myself sitting across the table from this stranger at a McDonald’s down the street, over a cup of coffee. We talked about our mutual frustration over trying to figure out where God is leading us in life. I was caught off guard bonding with someone over something I’ve kept bottled up inside for so long. It took all of my energy to maintain my composure and not completely fall apart in front of this random individual who was just passing through Stavanger.

Eventually, he brought up his note. I’d forgotten about it until that point, but he told me he ended up sitting behind me at this church, on this particular Sunday morning. For whatever reason, he said he felt God telling him He loves the girl sitting in front of him. And then he felt God telling him to tell me what he was hearing.

It sounds crazy. This person even told me he felt  uncomfortable passing this along, but was compelled enough to do it anyway, because he was struck by how profoundly he’d heard it.

The note on its own was, admittedly, unsettling. But hearing the reason why I received it completely and utterly floored me. I’m still in awe. It’s my sign. 

Me, of such little faith, got the sign I was crying out for.

I parted ways with this guy without exchanging contact information. In the age of social media, that’s almost unheard of. I’ll likely never see him again, and that’s okay. For one afternoon he received a crazy message that filled my heart with hope.

This isn’t a fix to my woes or a solution the controlling desire that troubles me. This doesn’t mean the adjustment period or stress is officially over, and my life will be hunky dory from this point forward (wouldn’t that be nice?). It did, however, provide me with just what I needed in this moment: A reason to keep going forward, whichever direction “forward” is.

In all of my efforts to conceal my feelings and my (lack of) faith, this was too wonderful to not share.

For that, I thank God.

Getting my house in order.

My first month is officially in the books.

I’m ramping up for month two, and very suddenly my work life looks like it will dominate the month of March.

I’m okay with this, as I’m ready to get my hands dirty and learn new things in my feeble attempt to strut my stuff.

Since I’ve gotten here, I’ve made a concerted effort to fill my free time out of the fear that complete isolation with my thoughts will bum me out. Having struggled through bouts of sadness and self-loathing since late 2016, I was keenly aware that I could not allow myself to be consumed by negativity when I was getting settled, so I made sure to swing the pendulum hard the other way by diving in head first.

As I’ve oriented myself at work and taken the time to figure out how I fit into my new team, I’ve avoided time alone with myself at all costs.

I’ve taken Swing Dancing classes on Mondays (I’m shamefully bad. It’s fantastic). I have language classes on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. I’ve attended a few events, gone on dates, explored the city, and met new people. On weekends, I’ve slept in to let my body rest, so I haven’t had a Saturday or Sunday morning since I got here. With the rest of my spare time, I’m in the gym.

I think this was a good thing, in the midst of my chaotic shake-up. But it’s come at a cost; the rest of my life – the disciplined part that thrives on routine – feels out of whack.

Part of that is because everything is up in the air; I don’t yet have even a temporary cadence at work, and it’s sounding like the next 4 weeks will be even crazier. The other part is because I just haven’t felt like getting my affairs in order. That takes effort, and I’m perpetually exhausted. I crash soon after I get home, and most mornings it’s really hard to get out of bed. I don’t see it as a sign of depression. Everything in my life just feels out of whack still. I waffle between feeling incredibly pumped and optimistic, and psyching myself out with a small negative voice in the back of my head that tells me I’ll never find my way here. I’m telling myself this is all normal, so long as I don’t let that small negative voice take over.

I’ve maintained a few of my standard disciplines in the midst of this newness. I go to the gym six days a week, if only because it gives me peace of mind. I’m playing piano most days because it relaxes me. But the cost of spending so much time and concentration on everything new is that my other disciplines have gone by the wayside.

My apartment feels like a train wreck. I haven’t made my bed since I got here – which is starkly out of character for me. It’s always been the first thing I do when I get up. I haven’t made any progress on my to-do list I wrote about last week. I’ve caught myself snacking too much, particularly on sugar. (I’m drinking a soda right now. WHO AM I.) I haven’t read in a month. I haven’t written in my private journal. Some of my clothes are in a pile on my bed because I don’t have enough hangers, and I have so much stuff for such a tiny space, I don’t know how to put everything away neatly. So I don’t. There’s trash by my door that’s needed to be taken out all week. Since I snooze until the last possible second every morning, I barely have time to make myself presentable and make it to the bus on time – and breakfast just hasn’t been happening.

To summarize, I’m a hot mess.

My mental energy just hasn’t been focused on maintaining these things – and I can’t help but accept how it’s contributed to the negative thoughts in my head that bring me down. It hit me this week, when I started ramping up with my working hours, and was overcome with a wave of exhaustion and frustration at my living space.

I was invited to another work get together this evening. We were out past 2am last Friday, and after getting home from a long day, the last thing I wanted to do was go out and drink – this time on my own dime (I haven’t gotten a paycheck yet, which is the approximate cost of 2 drinks in Stavanger). I thought about forcing myself to go out for the obvious reasons: fill your time, build a social life, bond with coworkers, blah, blah blah. But after a long week where I’ve had to be incredibly focused at work, I dragged myself home and admitted how I really felt: fuck it. I don’t feel like going out. Plus, Friday is leg day.

Instead, what I really wanted to do was spend this evening getting my house in order. I went to the grocery store after the gym and finally turned in all of my empty plastic bottles in exchange for the deposit I paid to purchase things in plastic bottles (Norway, man). I bought some spices and cleaning supplies (I still haven’t been able to find cumin here. It’s a travesty.). I cleaned my bathroom, did my dishes, tidied my living space, and shaved my legs – biggest win of the week. I already feel a little better.

It’s only been a month. When I got here, I said I would give myself three months leeway with my erratic behaviors as I try to find my way.

I deserve a night off.

Homeless, not Homesick.

Since my arrival to Norway, I’m often asked if I miss Houston.

I suppose I understand why someone would think that, but it’s a little strange, to me, to be asked if I’m homesick already. I just got here.

I don’t know if it’s normal to feel pangs of homesickness so early, but even if I did, admitting so would feel like defeat. After all, I’m determined to find my way here. How can I do that if my focus is on things I miss so quickly?

Even the weather, the most obvious difference between Houston and Stavanger, really hasn’t gotten to me (yet). I refuse to complain about it (yet) because I chose this life. In many ways, I feel I haven’t earned the right to complain or miss home because I haven’t truly settled in.

In fact, living here doesn’t even feel permanent (yet). It hits me in some moments when I do normal, mundane life things in a place that I don’t view as ‘home’:

I’m grocery shopping. In Norway.

I’m printing files. In Norway.

I’m cleaning my toilet. In Norway.

For every one of these moments, though, I have several more that remind me how quickly a few years can go by. So far, 2018 has felt like an eternal blur. A quick browse through my Google Calendar tells me this feeling will persist – especially since doing the smallest tasks in Norway require a great deal of effort for me right now. Case-in-point: Saying “Niger” or “Nigeria” in Norwegian is the most stressful thing I’ve ever done, as a white American living in a post-Trayvon/Kaepernick/Trumpian society. (Working in Oil and Gas, it happens more than you’d think.) Everything generates excitement, my mind hasn’t stopped moving, and I emotionally have not stopped processing things since I initiated this whole, “let’s pack up my life and hop across the pond for a while” brouhaha.

I don’t think I can adequately express how perpetually exhausted I am. Not for a lack of sleep; my brain is just on processing overdrive, and I’m running hot. I still have very little semblance of a routine, though one is starting to take shape. My bed (rather, the bed I sleep in, as I would never claim ownership of anything from Ikea) is the limit of my new comfort zone here, and waking up everyday means taking a step out of that comfort zone and into the unknown. I’m certainly more apprehensive to start the day now than I’ve ever been. There was a chiropractor at work last Friday. When she put one hand on my back, she said I was very tense and asked if there was anything stressful going on in my life right now. Oh, honey.

I don’t intend to convey sadness or depression. I don’t feel those things. But I’d be remiss if I didn’t admit that it takes a lot more energy to just get through the day right now. For instance, when my coworkers converse in Norwegian, it takes energy to attempt to even remotely discern what they’re saying. When they speak English, I know they’re doing so for me – so I have to actively listen and engage in that conversation. In this case, my appreciation for an occasional conversation in English outweighs my desire to space out and catch my breath for a moment.

It’s a lot like when I started working full time a few years ago. Going from a college schedule (read: sleep, sweat pants, and naps) straight into a 50 hour-per-week high stress environment was an exhausting adjustment for the first few months. But at the end of the work day, I could crawl home and immerse myself in the relaxing comfort of my friends and familiar surroundings. This is like that on steroids, and without anything remotely comfortable or relaxing. Going home doesn’t even feel like home, because none of its contents, other than my clothes, are mine. It’s like going back to a hotel room everyday. All temporary and flux, nothing permanent.

I’ve particularly grown fond of my time at the gym as a way to cope through these changes (shocker). Normally I use running to clear my head, but in this cold I’ve instead opted to plug in my headphones, tune out the world, and hit the weights. It’s quite helpful to offset the step back I’ve taken nutritionally, as I’ve also found solace in chocolate. I don’t, however, find solace in the 83% hike in Norway’s sugar tax, which took place just in time for my arrival – so I’m eager to conquer this crutch. I’m going on day two with no sweets. It’s dreadful.

Maybe I’m being dramatic. But in dealing with all of this change, I don’t even think I can find the time to miss Houston. I don’t miss my condo or my things in a profound way. I do miss my friends, but I’m grateful for social media, technology, and our efforts to stay connected. I’ve hardly spoken to my family since I got here, and I really can’t bring myself to yet – but that’s another subject for another blog post, if and when I’m ready. I think I will soon miss my ability to wear shorts most days of the year, or living close to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods – but those aren’t profound enough to complain about in the first six months, in my opinion. And above all, I’m excited to explore this place (and the rest of Europe) in ways I could not do from the US. That motivates me to be forward looking and optimistic, more than anything.

Newness is tiresome. I can’t imagine how much more chaotic this adjustment would be if I was homesick already.

Still Babysteppin’

I hate administrative paperwork. It’s the worst.

It’s not the form-filling that bugs me; it’s how every time I make progress, another layer of bureaucracy is added that further separates me from the end goal.

Example:

End goal: I want to obtain a Norwegian Driver’s License. 

Constraint: I have 2 months to do so before I’m charged substantial sums of money.

Step One: Fill out form and send in US Driver’s License.

Step Two: Complete Norwegian driving test, theory test, night test, first aid test (what???)

— Oh, you wear contacts? — 

Added Step: You now require a certificate from an eye doctor

Added Step: Go find an eye doctor

Added Step: Enter next bureaucratic process (healthcare system) to accomplish one step for this process

Current mental state: Maybe it’s easier to find a boyfriend who will drive me everywhere I need to go. 

Image result for spongebob rip paper gif

Moving to another country is hard work, y’all.

Getting things to move through “the system” in America was old hat. I was free to loathe it for all of its inefficiencies, I knew how it worked, and my forms were in English. Add in the layers of my ignorance to how this system works, my ignorance to the things I need to rely on the system for, my inability to understand the language, my foreign residence status, my perpetual frazzled state, and the respect I have to not talk shit about a country and government in which I am but a humble visitor, and you have me: desperately trying to navigate everything I need to do, relying on the kindness of people around me to help me find my way, while (hopefully) maintaining my sanity or not missing an important deadline.

I’ve approached my first few weeks here with baby steps.

My first day was literally about putting one foot in front of the other and maintaining my composure. As my life is starting to take some shape here (sort of; I still can’t think about my life with any sort of longevity without my chest tightening up a little bit), it’s time for me to start pushing myself to complete administrative tasks so that I’m finally – ‘governmentally’ – settled into Norway.

I also tried to complete all of the administrative work required of me in the US before I left. Of course, none of that is completely finished, leaving me with one foot in one bureaucratic pile, the other in a very different kind bureaucratic pile. Even a sour anti-government person like myself can appreciate the irony of this.

I can’t do everything at once, so once again I find myself with a to-do list in hand, tackling one thing at a time. I finally received my residence card in the mail and got set up in the Norwegian Tax system (my poor little libertarian soul mourns today, and every pay day for the next 2 years), which means I am free to start everything else.

  • Open up a bank account
  • Set up direct deposit
  • Get paid (kind of important)
  • Obtain Norwegian Driver’s License
  • Set myself up in Norwegian health care system
  • Find a doctor(s)
  • Acquire additional forms of necessary insurance (Disability, renter’s, travelers – all things I need to be here. Ugh.)
  • Set up accounts with the utility company (I’m just glad my lights still turn on everyday…)
  • Rent out my condo in Houston
  • Consider getting a car here???
  • Apply for Absentee ballots – 2018 is srs business (Why can’t I apply online for this? Come on, America.)
  • Finish my taxes in the US
  • Find someone to explain to me how taxes work in Norway
  • Find someone else to explain how to manage navigating two tax systems at once
  • Death by 1,000 paper cuts

The act of transcribing my to-do list onto this post is making me break out in sweats.

When I say I’m taking this one step at a time, I mean exactly that. One. Step. At. A. Time. It’s all I can handle at the moment without feeling lost in the cold, unfeeling Norwegian abyss.

I set up my Norwegian bank account yesterday and was filled with immense pride as I logged into online banking for the first time to see “NOK 0,00” staring back at me from my computer screen.

I’m starting from scratch. Literally at 0. I’m putting one foot in front of the other to settle in and start a life, of sorts. Paperwork is just a necessary evil to accomplish this, and I will get through it.

Eventually.

Seven Things: Part I

As I round out my third full week in Norway, I figured I would start sharing some of the things I’m learning or the observations I’m making as I experience more of what Stavanger has to offer.

Although I have way more than just these seven things to share, this is a good start.

1. Umbrellas are Useless

Coming from Houston to an Arctic coastal town in the middle of winter was a shock to my system, to say the least. One advantage to this is talking about the weather is perhaps the easiest ice breaker I’ve had to rely on. When I think of “Norway”, I, as a typical American, picture a city like Tromsø or Oslo:

Image result for tromsø winter

Image result for oslo in winter

Stavanger, though, is not the snow-packed tundra a typical American may envision. Its coastal location makes it a much more “mild” climate (comparatively speaking) that receives minimal snow. The snow I have experienced here is much like what you’d expect in Houston: sleet, watery, barely-frozen rain that sometimes sticks to the ground for a while. There is, however, wind and rain. A lot of rain.

I don’t have a car here, so I currently rely on the city bus and my two feet for transportation – leaving myself quite exposed to the elements. Naturally, I came equipped with an umbrella – or at least I was equipped with an umbrella, until it broke in a gust of wind the first time I opened it.

I’ve since noticed people don’t use umbrellas here to get around. They’re good with walking around in the rain, donning a thick waterproof coat with a nice hood. I lament my good hair days. They don’t last long here.

2. (Many) Norwegians are total townies

In fairness, this rings true for the majority of people, regardless of where they are in the world. We tend to not go very far or explore very much. That’s not necessarily a bad thing – it’s just the way it is for so many.

I’m not sure why I held this romantic view of Europeans being seasoned travellers, but many of the Norwegians I’ve met just don’t leave Norway. Many of the locals are from a smaller town a few hours away, and they move to the “big city of Stavanger” (HA.) for work. They go home often, and they go skiing or hiking elsewhere in Norway for their holiday. Some go to Spain or Italy every year. Some have been to the US once or twice for work.

I’m aware this is a gross generalization, but I’ve met more people who fit this model more than I’ve met people who have “seen the world” (I’m not sure what that means, really; the more I see the world, the more I realize how little I’ve actually seen).

Although this is basically the same model in the US (Many don’t leave their home town, and / or vacation in the same few spots every year), it feels magnified here because everything is on a smaller scale.

I met a local Noggie on Friday who said he moved “all the way to Stavanger” from the next town over, which is 6 miles away. But he “tries to go back on the weekends”, when he can. That’s not much different than moving from Cypress to Houston – but 30 miles here is far more substantial to a local than it is to a native Texan.

Perhaps I expected too much when I pictured people who literally have 50 different countries in their backyard, 5-7 weeks off a year, and access to budget airlines. Why wouldn’t one go to Lisbon on a whim? I certainly hope to.

3. America is Cultural Mecca

One of the things I take for granted as an American is how dominant we are in the cultural sphere. Most people around the world have a general idea of who the US President is and can name a handful of US current events or political leaders. They’re aware of major US happenings, like shootings or natural disasters (When I was in Bangkok last September, a local asked me how I fared after Hurricane Harvey when I told him I was from Houston; I don’t exactly follow Monsoon season in Thailand). They consume our American-produced media, and follow our celebrities. Many even stay up into the wee hours of the night to watch The Superbowl. Seriously – some of my coworkers stayed up all night to watch Tom Brady and Justin Timberlake underwhelm on live TV.

Meanwhile, I didn’t know who the Norwegian Prime Minster was until I googled it on a whim. I didn’t even know what kind of government Norway had. I probably have more cultural or political acumen than the average American – but I didn’t know much about the Scandinavian political sphere (aside from Iceland’s 2008 financial crisis) until I started reading about it on the plane ride over here. I can’t name a Norwegian actor (Thor Chris Hemsworth doesn’t count, unfortunately), and didn’t watch Norwegian television until I searched for a few niche shows on Netflix a few months ago. I’d never watched cross-country skiing until the winter olympic finals – only because it was on in the office.

America is the cultural center of the world. I’m grateful it gives me something to talk about with new people.

4. “Trykk En for Engelsk”

“Press One for English” is not something I’ve ever heard in my life until last week.

It’s true, English is the universal language of business. But Norwegians prefer speaking in their native tongue, when possible; I don’t blame them for that. I’ve been told frequently over the last few weeks that if I want to stand a chance at fitting in or finding a place, I’ll do my best to pick up some Norsk. After all, it’s no fun being the only person not in on the joke. Listening in on conversations feels like living in a Sims computer game,  at times – and that’s with a few Duolingo lessons under my belt. I started taking Norwegian Language classes yesterday, and have every intention on picking up some Norwegian.

Wish me luck.

5. Free College: Masters in Market Saturation

I’ve learned that in order to get an interview with my company in Norway, you (allegedly) need a Master’s Degree.

Here I am, a lowly Bachelor’s with a few years of experience from the US.

From where I stand, there are a few natural outcomes (consequences?) to this expectation

First, college is free in Europe. If everyone gets a bachelor’s, the natural next differentiator is a Master’s degree – that is, until everyone else has one too. As long as it’s free, why not keep going? Had school in the US been free, perhaps I’d have a few more degrees, too – but from where I stand now, I personally don’t believe that to be the best use of time and resources. If a Master’s is the new Bachelor’s, then it seems that at least six years of university is now required to get your career started. Similar to a GPA requirement, it’s also an easy filter for employers – although I’m not too sure how I feel about that one, either.

Second, it’s a very interesting phenomenon to consider how the norm here is that your career (and to an extent, your life) doesn’t begin until your late twenties. I’m 3 years younger than some of my coworkers, and I have more work experience than they do. Life isn’t a race, and a Master’s Degree from a college in Europe sounds far more prestigious than my Business degree from Texas A&M; grad school just isn’t part of my story, and I’m comfortable with that. At 25, I am just grasping how valuable my twenties are. I’ve written about my priority to experience and grow as much as I can within my first five years out of school; I’m glad I was able to start my career, support myself, and experience the world at 22 rather than 27 or 28. Time is precious, and I’m grateful to be a special case to come work here without having written a Master’s Thesis.

6. Babies in the Cold

I’ve only been to two Scandinavian cities so far – Stavanger and Copenhagen – and one trait both share is how safe they are. I feel completely fine walking the city alone at night. Nobody will bother me. I would not do that at home.

As a young woman, oh how I appreciate that.

I was shocked, however, to learn that these cities are considered so safe that people will leave their babies outside and unattended while they go into a store to do their business.

I was in a coffee shop on my first full day in Stavanger when I watched a woman walk up to the door pushing her baby carriage. She left the carriage – with the baby bundled up, fast asleep – outside while she went in and had a relaxing cup of coffee and chat with a friend. Whatthefuck. 

No seriously. This is really common. It blows my mind.

I don’t have any commentary about this, but please excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor and go on about my day.

7. Coffee & Alcohol: Nectars from Valhalla

I’m convinced Norwegians suffer from chronic dehydration.

Norway is #2 in the world for coffee consumption per capita, second only to Finland. In fact, Scandinavian countries make up the top 4 on this coveted list – and all are in the top 6.

Coffee is a staple in the office, with most making frequent trips to replenish their cups with bean juice well into the afternoon. I, myself, have quickly become a 2 cups a day gal – but I do like sleeping at night.

During the week, Norwegians drink coffee. During the weekend, they get lit. In 2/7 of their year, the average Norwegian drinks 21.7 gallons of alcohol. (And they aren’t even in the top 25 countries in terms of per capita alcohol consumption.) I don’t drink too much, but nightlife in Stavanger is filled with endless barhopping and all of the over-priced beer and wine you can ask for.

In my first two Friday nights, I consumed more alcohol than I have in the last 6 months. I know, I know – it’s the European thing to do; but I think I’m better off sticking to a Pellegrino for a night on the town – weird stares be damned.

 

 

Riding the High.

I’m not your typical expat.

I’m young, I’m female, and I came here alone (in most contexts, that would merit a flashing neon “Abudct Me!” sign over my head).

I’m quite comfortable with the atypical. In fact, I prefer it. It continuously gives me a certain element of gravitas that I love to seek, even when that gravitas requires several trips through the ringer – like learning how to adjust in a foreign country.

A downside of being younger than average when I do things is the abundant unsolicited advice from those who have come before me.

I shouldn’t complain. I love giving unsolicited advice. And I routinely seek the council of people I trust and respect. I have a deep appreciation for getting perspective from as many people as I can prior to making opinions or decisions of my own. I try to remain open in the face of new information.

As I venture out into my new Norwegian world, I’m naturally encountering many expats – many of whom marvel at my ‘youth’ and ‘bravery’ in a way I find more patronizing than flattering. Don’t get me wrong – I can appreciate having some smoke blown up my ass, but in some cases I find myself reacting defensively to unsolicited advice. It’s unsettling.

I suppose it’s natural to assume some level of superiority when interacting with people who have just started to walk a path already familiar to you; I am no exception to this. I also think most humans feel a natural urge to pass down their wisdom – particularly in uncommon situations: I’ve had many seasoned expats point out my rookie mistakes made during my move and in the midst of starting up a life, as though I was an idiot for not knowing any better. In fairness, I am ignorant to most of what I’m doing at this point; but if I learn and grow from everything I encounter, I would not classify it as a ‘rookie mistake’, rather an opportunity to experience something new. (This is much easier to say after making peace with ruining my new flats because I didn’t think to wear waterproof shoes to walk outside. In Norway. In winter. Education is not free, friends.)

I also get a kick out of receiving life advice from people who neither know me nor my situation. I met an American from Houston over the weekend with an impressive resume. He was a nice fellow who I’m sure had the best of intentions when he strongly urged me to get an MBA while I’m working here – and argued with me for about an hour when I said I had neither the desire nor the plans to do so. Despite being very open about my rationale for why my priorities in life were different than his, part of me wondered if he was secretly a recruiter for an MBA program. He certainly claimed to know more about my career path and life than I did.

Perhaps the most interesting part of these experiences are the expectations from multiple people who insist I’m soon to hit a “Post-Transition Crash”, where I will be consumed with unhappiness, depression, and homesickness.

Joy. 

The obvious point here is that I’m in completely uncharted territory right now, I have no local friends, no comfort zone, no reference point, and no markers on a fixed path to follow. I’m literally doing my own thing, and that’s overwhelming and exhausting. I have no idea what emotions or frustrations I will experience over the coming months – even if I know to expect difficulty and struggle. So I understand why people are expecting me to enter into a slump before I find my place here. And maybe that will happen. I appreciate the concern (warning?) – but right now, it does me no favors to be reminded of my supposed fate on a daily basis.

I try to put a lot of thought into the decisions I make, and I’m trying very hard to remain open to every bit of new information I receive – even when I feel inclined to dismiss certain pieces of unsolicited advice as inapplicable to me. (I feel that inclination often.) The reality is, though, I made a choice to be here. I chose this, knowing (but not really comprehending) that it would be hard for a while. I’ve had struggles and difficult moments already, and I know there will be more.

Yesterday was a hard day. I left a workplace where I had a clear place and the momentum to confidently deliver everyday to join a new group where I don’t speak the language, have zero reputation, and don’t quite jive with their way of working yet. My frame of reference was groomed to cater to one group of Americans, and falling back on that is only half helpful, albeit a solid foundation. Plus, I really fucking hate being the new girl. I’m trying to balance these frustrations with the rational part of my head that’s telling me to be patient and have faith. I’ve come to recognize what growing pains feel like, but that doesn’t make them any less painful. This is a good step for me. But it’s not easy.

Does that mean I’m headed for a post-transition crash? After only 3 weeks?

From where I sit in my new foreign home, the grass will absolutely look greener on the other side (of the pond). It’s comfortable over there. Here’s the thing, though. I accepted that I was not fully happy in Houston, so I’m going to try to make happy happen in Norway for a while. It’s foolish to think I’m going to feel frustrated and stressed everyday just because I feel that way right now. Of course there’s part of me that desperately wishes I could magically skip over the hard part to a few months in the future where things are going well (and I’m warmer), but it doesn’t happen that way. I have to find my way through this part to get to the better parts.

I’d much rather do that from a place of hope rather than waiting for a crash.