My coping mechanisms

I’m a woman of action. Once I decide something, I do it and I do it with gusto.

Once I decided to go home for good I started out with a to do list.

  1. Get a job
  2. Pack up shit
  3. Say goodbye to friends
  4. Say hello to family
  5. Reconnect with home friends
  6. Keep busy and never let the pain catch me

That was pretty much a condensed list of what I had planned for myself.

I always put myself in these situations because that’s all I’ve known. Put your mind to it and you’ll be fine. You’re always fine. You always land on your feet.

And so I did.

I’m lucky to have a job and experience that is high in demand back home because while the industry was in frenzy in Europe, it hadn’t actually hit the antipodes yet and I was well positioned to demand whatever the fuck I wanted.

Within the first week of trying to find a job I had 9 interviews lined up.

By the second week I had a job offer and was ready to go.

I wanted to hit the ground running because during my time in that tiny little European country, I felt stifled. My professional life stalled because we were building hers. There were also other reasons such as despite it being European, they’re still very nationalistic and the only job a ‘non-European’ could do, particularly one that looks like me, is a cleaning job. Migrant life in Europe, even if you’re a white collar one from a first world country is pretty bleak. I’ll talk about those experiences later.

Fast forward to landing back in my country, I knew just the remedy to stave off the reverse culture shock that lurked around the corner. I would keep my schedule full with discovering my city again and trying to see it in a new light.

I am not stepping back into my old life; I am building a new one – I told myself.

So I enrolled myself in community college, found the nearest CrossFit box to work and got cracking at it. Oh and I started RP and the new job – all in the first week. That’s how I am – go hard or go home, which in this case was both…

All trying to stave off the loneliness that would engulf me if I stopped for even one minute.

All this whilst I incessantly texted my friends in Europe like nothing has changed, like I’m just a few minutes away and we’ll see each other for drinks very soon. I was jumping into my new life with reckless abandon but clinging on to people that I’ve been tethered to for the last couple of years. I wasn’t ready to let go and I wasn’t ready to accept that I would be home for the foreseeable future. Everything I did was a distraction because guess what? It worked before. This is not the first time I have not “re-integrated” successfully.

I did a university exchange to Canada and whilst I thought it was similar enough to not get reverse culture shock upon my return, it’s not the culture that I had to worry about it. It was how I had changed in light of my experiences abroad.

I was unhappy for a very long time.

And then I escaped to Europe the first time.

Upon my return from that trip I was even more unhappy. It cured nothing. There were also life changes that made me deeply empty when I should have been ecstatic to finally be an adult like all my cohort.

I theorised if I could not be in Europe, I would bring Europe to me. So I enrolled in Spanish class and forced myself to go to meet ups to practice my Spanish, thus meeting Spanish people and live my Spanish life.

That worked for a while.

Then I bought a plant. Inspired by ‘28 days’ that Sandra Bullock movie about rehab and how you have to take care of a plant first before you can get into a relationship or something like that, I bought myself a plant.

Things got better.

I planned more trips, living for the planning process and motivated by the trip awaiting me on the other end, I got through life in my home town.

So as you can see here are my tried and true coping mechanisms for reverse culture shock:

  1. Enrol in a course
  2. Buy a plant
  3. Force social interaction

That’s pretty much what I did in the European country too.

I enrolled in an intensive language course

I bought multiple plants

I went to every meet up I could find and forced myself into conversations, contrived social situations and false pretences to meet up with people. Even inviting them over and cooking dinner for them because who doesn’t like a person who cooks?

Rinse and repeat.

I copy and pasted that exactly on my return this time.

I enrolled in a Practical Psychology course – because I want to study how to be human and thus relate to my fellow compatriots.

I have been hunting for plants ever since being back – literally every weekend involves driving around to different chain stores looking at plants to settle on some that I call ‘insta-plants’ aka Instagram famous plants.

I have yet to force social interactions because my job keeps me quite tired BUT I am now CrossFitting so maybe I shall force myself to crack a joke while someone holds 100kg over their heads. Let’s see how that goes.

I have since reconnected with close friends here and I’m thankful that they’ve accepted me again after my long absence, particularly because I now know that none of them liked my European partner and said nothing. I don’t blame them, I wasn’t ready to hear it. I am thankful that they’ve accepted me again. A delayed reaction to my ex-partner I suppose. We won’t be friends with you when you’re with her but we’ll happily welcome you back with open arms when you need us. Waiting, silently. Like in ‘Mean Girls’ when Lindsay Lohan goes off the deep end and becomes a Plastic. Janice and that too gay to function dude welcomes her back after her period of penance.

I’m Lindsay Lohan. In all her glorious mess.


Photo by Steve Johnson on Unsplash

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