I’ve done re-entry a few times. Sometimes better, other times not so well. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way.
R First off, Re-entry is such a misnomer! There is nothing “re-“ in it! OK, geographically you might be going back to the place you hail from. Fair enough. That’s the extent of “re-“, though! You are not going backwards! You are moving forwards, into the next phase of your journey. You are also definitely not going back to a familiar place! Depending on how long you were away for, it might still look familiar. But it has changed. And you have changed. That’s a whole lot of change! So…
E „Entry“ – that’s more like it! You are entering a new place. Treat it as such! Remember when you first went overseas? How things were exciting and stressful and fun and there was so much to learn? It’s so much harder having that learner’s attitude when you’re supposedly going “home” but do your best! And have fun exploring!
E So much Emotion. And yes, I do realise I shouldn’t be spelling it with a capital letter. But in reality, it desperately needs that capital letter! Chances are, as with any transition, your emotions will be all over the place. That’s ok. Allow yourself to feel them. Also know not to take them too seriously. This phase will pass and things will look different. These emotions are part of the ride. Feeling them is not wrong at all but they are not the whole story either.
N Did you stick out like a sore thumb in your host country? Did you often wish you could just blend in? Well, now you do blend in and instead of helping, it makes things harder. You are a hiddeN immigrant. You look like a local, sound like a local, maybe even act like a local. But on the inside, you’re different. Sure, that local part of you is real. But so much more has been added to the mix. So much that people around you can’t see and don’t know about. In many ways, sticking out was a gift. No one expected you to know and understand everything. Not so here. Most people will not understand that you are not able to just slot back in. You’re a hidden immigrant.
T Time does not make everything better. We all know that. But when it comes to re-entry (or any transition) it does help. You don’t stop missing places, people, your life in that other place. You do, though, add new memories, new relationships, new skills, new experiences. Your life again becomes what it is – a part of the larger whole that is your life. Always there but no longer dominating everything and blinding you to the beauty of the here and now.
R How do you think about re-entry? What is your gut reaction to the word? Reframing my thinking changed so much for me! Instead of feeling like I was going backwards, I decided I would think of this stage as a new season of a TV show. There are familiar characters, familiar story lines, that carry over. There are also surprises, new characters, unexpected developments. Whatever happens, things always move forward. There are developments we love but we might not be totally happy with everything that transpires.. Either way, it’s all part of the same story, always moving forward, with surprises just around the corner. For more on this, check out Small Planet Studio https://smallplanetstudio.com/
Y Find Your tribe! Connect with people who get it! On the ground, online. There are communities you can join, and wherever you are in the world, I would bet there are people around who understand. They might not be people you knew before but now you connect. I’m not saying avoid the hard work of (re-)connecting with people who don’t get it but it is so good for the soul to connect with people who do. Find those who are also walking this re-entry road, and those who have gone before.
And a bonus one, just because I can! A big fat G for GRACE! So much grace for yourself and for those around you who don’t get why it’s hard!
This post has been linked to Velvet Ashes, an encouraging site for women serving cross-culturally.