I am currently behind on these prompts mainly because I want to post something honest.
These posts are part of the Instagram (@AmidreamEU) writing prompt #virtualcampfire2021, ignited by Christina Kapaun @southboundstories and Annyka Overton @chameleoncoaching as a series of writing prompts for ex-pats to share over the course of November.
What is my new normal?
This is a tricky question.
We’ve been living this grand experiment for so many years that what is normal would probably be unthinkable to the old me. I often can’t believe this is the life I get to live and raise my child in. I often feel like pinching myself, like I might finally wake myself up if I do it just hard enough.
But it isn’t a dream.
And this dream isn’t perfect, by any means.
It is still amazing though.
When I was a child being tormented by my older sister. I would dream of living far away from her, in NYC, and being so successful that her bullying was a distant memory of a life before. Fast forward to now, I have lived in NYC, I have lived in London, I have worked all over the world and traveled through a bit of it. I also know now that it takes more than physically leaving to grow beyond the past.
So, here I have settled with my family in this little corner of Germany that is just big enough, but close enough to everything and everywhere else in Europe that is bigger and occasionally more exciting. This place feels safe and comfortable, enough that we give my son a sort of freedom and independence my parents didn’t give me until I was a wee bit older.
I still have yet to master the language to the degree that I would like, but I practice it daily. My dentist and doctor speak to me in German first even though when I communicate in return it is often at a lower level than my elementary-aged child.
I use translation websites daily.
I began my website almost a decade ago in an attempt to figure out what my normal was then and now amidst a global pandemic I am still working it out although I feel I have come a long way in understanding.
First, I focused on just being a good teacher.
Then, it was about being a good English teacher.
Then, my normal was about preparing for motherhood and what that meant living far from our own parents. I am thankful for the friends whom I met around this time who helped me remain grounded through the third trimester, the birth, and postpartum depression (that I really only recognized after the fact).
I felt completely lost because I physically felt like simply a vessel of nutrients for my new baby while my brain felt overloaded. I didn’t feel human, I didn’t feel like a woman. I didn’t feel like me.
I am so thankful that I happened upon a private Facebook group of international ladies shortly after my son was born. These ladies were better than any book, website, or self-help anything that I could have come across to help me feel normal. This community has only grown since then, and the friendships have only become deeper.
Post-birth, I have understood that creating a community of positive, supportive friends and chosen family when our blood family is so far away is worth the effort of cultivation and nurturing. This has only deepened during the pandemic.
In late December 2020, I woke up one morning thinking about how we would celebrate New Year’s Eve as a family, how we would reflect on the year before, and how in the world would plan for the year ahead since all the old familiar ways were out the window. At the time, as it is most days, it is important for me to create a happy and positive environment for my child to thrive in – even if I don’t feel like personally thriving or the outside environment is in utter chaos. How else am I going to help teach my child to look for the good, especially if all the external sources (mass media) keep telling us the world is going to hell in a handbasket?!
My sister once commented to me that I was “running away”. “From what?!” Was my response. This was long after I had settled with my husband in our little corner of Germany and child was very well a part of our life here. I didn’t and still don’t feel like I am running from anything, but maybe I wasn’t really running toward much of anything either.
I realized I didn’t want this pandemic to end with the world going back to normal without long-unrealized goals I had within myself remaining dormant. I started yet another blog and Instagram account (which I still have to close) dedicated to health and wellness and signed up for Intercultural communication train-the-trainer training. I was exercising every day either at the gym or at home, whatever the pandemic would allow. I attempt to meditate daily, but don’t beat myself up if I don’t. Finally, I write whenever I can. Some of it I publish to the world, some of it I use simply for self-reflection.
I also started another venture with my girlfriend, MC Culture Consult (@MC_Culture_Consult) because I had a feeling she was kinda in the same weird boat as me knowing there was more to all of this life and living abroad than what we had simply been doing. Plus, the two of us get together and talk about everything under the sun and the moon together anyway, so why not record it and put it out there into the world.
But, what if we fail?!
Yeah, sure. I would rather try and fumble, or even try and fail rather than never having tried at all. I would rather be running with all my energy toward something, than not going anywhere at all.
That is my new normal.