Eleven months ago I began the journey of repatriation and I’m here to tell you that I’ve taken a beating. When I started this blog in 2012, I tried to uncover everything I could about how to get an overseas teaching job. What I never researched, and never even thought about, were the effects of reverse culture shock – if and when I’d ever return to the USA.
During my first months in Istanbul, Turkey, when culture shock was overwhelming at times, I reached out to administrators, colleagues and friends who were experiencing the same thing. Most of us had moved there from different countries and were not native to Turkey. We supported each other and worked through all the emotional changes we were experiencing. What I never prepared myself for was the hardship of coming back to your home country, alone, with no one who understood or could give emotional support.
After returning to the USA and living out of WalMart gray containers in the homes of friends and family for nine months, I felt like a tumbling tumbleweed. Even so, I don’t know how to ever repay the generosity of these people who lovingly opened their homes to me while I tried to sort out my life and make new decisions. After the wedding of my only daughter in early January, I drove back to my home state of Texas, crying all the way across California, Arizona and New Mexico. I felt like I’d lost all my identities: being a mother, being a teacher, being an artist and being a traveler.
I’ve now been in Texas for eight months. My brother and his wife graciously offered me a job in their company and I rented a small apartment. I count my blessings every day as I get to be alone with my thoughts and my things. My thoughts have been tangled this year, but two weeks ago I finished a 6-week course by Dr. Cate Brubaker called The Re-Entry Relaunch Roadmap. I would highly recommend this course to anyone struggling with repatriation. It helped me process all the changes I’ve been through and it gave me a community of people who understand me. One key exercise was to reframe my re-entry experience in a few words. The statement I came up with explains where I’m at in my new state of mind: Rest and Re-Invent.
One reader of my blog recently wrote me and asked if I were going to write again; she hoped so. With her in mind, I’m looking forward to sharing some new ideas in the weeks ahead.
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