I live in Europe now. That’s still a little weird to say. So much has changed in just a few weeks.
As I write this, I’m tucked away on the second floor of our townhouse in Germany, idly watching cars pass on the street and little dogs scurry down the sidewalk with their owners. They hurry through the cold air to an errand or appointment or maybe just for a little morning exercise. After all, the sun is out today and that is cause for celebration. I feel its warm light coming through the windows and everything feels right for a few minutes. I forget the laundry in the basement and the unopened boxes in the attic and the bare walls that need photos and curtains. This morning it’s just me, a cup of coffee, and the sunshine on my face.
And the quiet thought that everything will be just fine.
Moving overseas often sounds more idyllic than it really is. If the bureaucracy and paperwork don’t break you, the abundant unknowns and weeks-long rootlessness just might.
Suddenly things like buying coffee or getting gas become tiny tests of your fortitude. Reading a menu or turning left at a stoplight. Choosing a new shampoo or checking your mail. It’s all in question and second nature is nowhere to be found.
Yesterday in the car, talking about this with my husband on our way to the grocery store, we agreed it’s like a muscle. Navigating something foreign, learning a new process, getting lost, asking for help, feeling a subtle but constant uncertainty. You flex those muscles
daily–sometimes hourly–until it doesn’t rattle you anymore. You practice feeling just a little scared until you learn to sit with it. Conquering it isn’t the goal; fear of the unknown will always find a way back to you.
Eventually you’ll recognize it as a familiar companion and simply smile.
We took a trip to France this weekend, trading languages and customs all over again. And it felt almost effortless. What could possibly send us running scared after everything we’ve faced these past two months?
We recalled just enough French to be polite, wandering around Strasbourg and the little village of Riquewihr. We drank Alsatian wine and even dropped into a restaurant with white tablecloths for lunch.
Scott has a joke about me that I’ll walk past a shop window or café and say, “Oh, that’s so lovely. Look how cute!” And then I’ll just keep walking, peering through the windows but never entering.
“You know you’re allowed to go inside, right?”
I always laugh, because of course I’m allowed to go inside. I rarely do.
Thinking about it now, it’s just that old fear of the unknown. Never quite trusting what lies ahead, even if what lies ahead is just a charming shop filled with fashionable hats or dainty espressos.
So when we stopped in for lunch at a restaurant that made me acutely aware of my tennis shoes and windblown hair and we proceeded to have a four-course lunch, I felt the slightest bit proud. All these weeks of feeling out of place and unsteady have trained me to just do it anyways. Book the hotel, ask for a table, take the tour, drive through the city, get in line. You won’t always do everything perfectly, but since when has that really mattered?
All that practice wasn’t for nothing.
Look how strong you are now.