The Rough Parts of Transition

A few weeks ago I lost my calendar. For a teacher who has to keep track of lesson plans, class tests and endless to do lists, this is close to a catastrophe. So I needed to get a new calendar. I went downtown and thought I would find one within a few minutes.

One and a half hours later I was still roaming the streets.

I could feel frustration and anger rise inside of me.
Anger at myself for wasting all this time in search of a stupid calendar.
Anger at the city for being so new, so unknown and so big.
Frustration at my situation – I am the new person who has no clue on where to go.
I hate being lost and, more than that, feeling lost.

Moving to a new place is one thing, but making it a home is a whole different story. Transition isn’t over when boxes are unpacked and you found somewhat of a new routine. Transition takes time, and it’s mostly the little things that teach me how long it really takes.

When you uproot your life and go somewhere else you leave a lot behind that you simply can’t put in boxes.

Your favorite coffee place.
That papeterie shop which had everything you needed.
That path on the hill where you took walks to regain perspective.
The knowledge where everything is, what ways you have to go, which routine works best for you.
All these familiar faces and beloved friends who made life in your old home so enjoyable and memorable.

Leaving the old and familiar behind in exchange for the new and unknown is scary. So how can we navigate these rough parts of transition?

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Say a proper goodbye
I’ve written about this many times before (like here or here), but every step onto new territory is shaped by how you left the old one. It’s normal to hang in the balance while you’re transitioning, but if your heart and mind are always stuck in the old place and old routines, you will never be open to welcome new places, people or routines into your life.
So settle your accounts.
Look back on what you left behind and give thanks.
Don’t compare, but welcome this new chapter with a grateful heart and open arms.

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Translate, don’t copy your routines
This is a piece of advice I received from an American friend as he was transitioning into life in Germany. You had your go-to places and people in your old home and it’s important that you find new go-to’s in your new home. This might take a while and cost you a bit of effort. Most of the time it’s not possible to simply copy old routines into a new setting. The people are not exactly the same and there’s just one favorite coffee place.

But reflect on why you love these routines so much, what kind of people inspire your life, and then go look out for them.
You might have liked the coffee shop for its style, its staff or its coffee brands – so find a place that offers these.
You might’ve had a walking route routine to clear your head – so discover new paths.
You might’ve had encouragers, activists or believers in your circles of friends – so get to know new people and explore the qualities they have to offer.
You don’t have to forget about places and people you left behind, but give new places and people the chance to inspire you in the same way – just in a different shape or form.

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Give yourself time
Again, I’m preaching to myself – transition takes time.
How much? I don’t know, it’s different for everyone. I just know that putting yourself under pressure won’t make a transition any easier.
Your apartment doesn’t have to be finished within weeks – allow yourself time to furnish and decorate it. Wait for inspiration to come.
Your go- to places might not always be the most visible, so take some time to wander the streets without an agenda or watch in mind. When a store speaks to you, go in and have a look. Pay attention to details. Get lost on purpose.
Your go-to people need time to get to know you as well, so don’t expect too much at once. Take it one step, one person, one relationship at a time. Be brave to invite others into your home or accept someone’s invitation. Do things together. Share a meal and see what happens around the table. Allow people to surprise you with qualities you didn’t know before.

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On my involuntary walk through this new city I finally decided to not give into frustration and anger, but to accept this time of roaming and searching. I opened my eyes for new shops and surprising buildings I hadn’t seen before. It made me want to see and explore more. After a while, I found a cute little place with the most gorgeous design ideas and, finally, a calendar.