Grace and I became social media friends while participating in the Ultimate Blog Challenge several months ago. She writes the City Girl Confidence blog. I must be her target audience because I often feel like she is writing to me directly. It's time for another round of the Ultimate Blog Challenge so we're all trying to write 31 posts this month. One of her recent posts offers tips to help women cope with change. I was getting ready to comment on her post and realized I had some tips of my own to offer so I should write my own post on the subject.
Growing up I never went to one school for more than two years except for college. Even then I spent my junior year studying abroad so my time was split. Several years after college I married my high school sweetheart. After our honeymoon he left to complete the Judge Advocate Officer Basic Course and we became an Army family, always on the move. My life has been nothing but change.
We are stationed in Germany right now and we think it's a wonderful opportunity. We travel as much as we can, we hang out with our German neighbors, and our daughter is just finishing up her third year in German school (the third school in three years). Unfortunately many people don't view this assignment as a wonderful opportunity. We're separated from friends and family in the States by a very long and expensive airplane journey. There's a big language barrier. We can't always get our favorite things from familiar stores. Dealing with landlords and utility companies can be a struggle. Some people rarely leave post. They are not coping well with the change of being here and it makes me sad. Coping with the change of moving comes naturally to me because it's what I have always done. With the change of location comes an avalanche of other related changes...job, house, city, doctors, hairdressers, languages, customs, schools, friends, everything. What do I have that that other people are missing? I narrowed it down to three secrets.
EducationWhen I get word that I'm moving I start educating myself on our new destination. I look for things that I can be excited about. The first things I look for are gyms/yoga studios, grocery stores, quilting/scrapbooking shops, friends already living there, etc.
Next, I start to consider necessities like housing and schools. The possibilities in these areas may or may not be exciting, but spending the time to figure out what to expect can help ease the transition.
Finally, I go the extra mile if necessary to prepare myself for the transition. Moving to Germany meant learning some German. This may seem obvious but many Americans spend three years here without learning 10 words. Everyone is busy with day to day activities and responsibilities, but having at least a basic grasp on the language makes a huge difference in traveling, shopping, taking care of utilities and other responsibilities, and integrating into a neighborhood. Before moving to Germany the first time I got a CD-ROM (old days!) to learn some basics. Once here, I enrolled in a class that met several evenings a week. When I found out we were coming back I brushed up with Rosetta Stone. My grammar and vocabulary are embarrassing considering the number of years we've spent here but I can socialize, travel, and take care of responsibilities with more comfort than most.
IntegrationI try to fit in while still remaining true to myself. When I was a kid this meant joining the Pathfinder (similar to boy/girl scouts) club in my new city. Now it means looking for gym classes I like or book clubs to join. Sometimes I branch out. At Fort Irwin there was a group of ladies that met once a month to make cards. I was a scrapbooker so it wasn't a far stretch to jump into the cardmaking group and I had a wonderful time. Sometimes I have to make my own group. I've had ladies come to my house to learn to quilt and a friend and I started a book club from scratch. My husband and I make an effort to attend events in our German village so we can get to know our neighbors and the families that have children that go to school with our daughter. It is much easier to cope with change when you feel like there is a place you belong.
Look for ComfortWhen pushed outside of my comfort zone because of a big change I look for comfort in things that don't change...my car, my family, our belongings. I give myself two weeks to get settled into a new home. That's a week to unpack boxes and dispose of packing materials, and a week to decorate and fill in gaps. When we get settled in a new place I will often drive the same route all the time, settle into a daily routine, and shop in the same places.
There's no doubt that dealing with change is difficult, but with change comes opportunity. Look for things you can get excited about so you don't get caught up in the negative aspects of change and miss out on the bright spots that await you.
What do you struggle with the most when faced with a big change?