There are four phases one goes through when relocating. They include in order: preparation, honeymoon, culture shock and finally, adaptation. As a former expat and repat three times over, I’m very familiar with these. As a repatriated expat to Charleston, for over a year now, I’m finally in the last one, the adaptation phase.
This phase is the feel good phase. You’re more settled, have made some friends, know your way around and developed favorites (restaurants, grocery stores, beaches, etc.). Experiencing this phase at this time of my life has been very different than 24 years ago, moving to The Hague, or even 19 years ago moving to Boston. I don’t think I’d have adapted as well relocating in middle age when my kids were growing up. Those years were full of hockey, baseball, basketball and football games, riding lessons, summers on the beach and making really good friends. Eventually, after 17 years in Massachusetts, the long grey days without sun imbedded an impermeable bleak funk in me.
There’s nothing like an impermeable bleak funk to give one the courage needed to move. After our kids were older with one off to college, we took a leap of faith and accepted an incredible job offer overseas and moved to Amsterdam for two years. It was an awesome two years filled with travel, the excitement of living in Europe and, to be honest, living with more grey days than I care to remember. Amsterdam has to be one of the greyest places I’ve ever lived – and one of the most beautiful. There was definitely a funk there too, but it wasn’t as bleak in Amsterdam.
After that assignment was over we decided to move to Charleston. It was a lifestyle choice. Relocating to the south has been surprisingly easy. Maybe we are becoming pros at this. Settling into this southern lifestyle in the adaptation phase, I find myself really introspecting a lot. I think I just made up that word. But, that is what’s happening. Perhaps it’s that dreaded past middle age thing, perhaps it’s me embracing this attractive new lifestyle of slowing my roll, rocking on my front porch and letting the dependable sunshine freckle me.
I’ve been reading a lot lately. Writers should always read a lot, as my Journalism professor used to say. Maybe that’s what is causing all this introspection. My reading choices have been mixed with book club suggestions, southern writers and Grown and Flown articles. Those Grown and Flown snippets are tearing at my heartstrings, as they’re designed to do, and they’re making me more grateful for my really good friends. Thank God for the iPhone! Whether FaceTiming, texting, chats in the car, or this new cool video chat on the Marco Polo app, my friends scattered across the globe are providing invaluable support to me in this transitional time of my life. Member those long distance phone ads highlighting calling plans before smartphones were invented? I could be in one of those, only for smartphones.
Still, relocating comes with a cost. That cost can definitely include loss of friendships and missing out on things. Luckily, for me, I haven’t felt that cost. I’m slowly making friends because at this time of my life, I’ve decided to take my time. I’ve been lucky so far making a few good ones down here. But, making really good friends takes time. I’ve been packing for this girl’s trip coming up for the last few weeks, a girl’s trip I’m taking with really good friends back north. We’re off to Iceland to celebrate another one of us turning 50. I’m pretty sure I‘m driving them nuts with frequent emails and texts with inane details and pictures as my excitement builds. It’s because I miss them. It’s because I can’t wait to see them. It’s because I moved. I left. And I still want in. Thank God they know this and haven’t sent me packing, figuratively speaking.
Where would we all be without our good friends? Rhetorical questions don’t need answers really, just thought – introspection. Us ladies need good friends. We need to be good friends. We need to cherish and treasure and give of ourselves to our friends. We also need to carve out time with them to laugh, cry, experience and share – and maybe come up with a fun prank or two. Most importantly, we need to keep good friends. They are priceless, invaluable and help us stay sane.
As my husband travels all week for work and my teenage daughter does what teens do and my son away at college does what college kids do, I should feel a lot lonelier down here rocking on my front porch, with just my dogs for company. Oddly enough though, with most of my closest friends living elsewhere, but actually here for me, figuratively speaking, I’m not lonely at all. I think, perhaps, I’ve adapted.