Letters from Elle #002
Since the start of COVID-19, I've been through many transitions. You can think of transitions as moving to a new house, migrating to another country, or starting a new period in life.
In February 2020, COVID-19 arrived in Singapore. I decided to leave temporarily, anticipating that COVID-19 would have died down within a month or two.
But it didn't. Countries began to close borders. As the world understood the virus better, it seemed unlikely that COVID19 would become manageable within a year or two. Due to ridiculously expensive quarantine mandates, I couldn't return to Singapore until today.
You see, the universe had other plans for me. With the possible two years of never returning to Singapore, I decided to further my education with a 2nd master's degree, and somehow, I ended up in beautiful Portugal in October 2020.
After that, it was the 2021 summer in Malaysia, autumn in Belgrade, and Christmas and New Year in Lisbon. In 2022, it was winter/spring in Malaysia, and at last, my return to Lisbon at the end of spring.
In two years, my transitions comprised four countries and 12 house moves. The process of packing and unpacking had become tiresome. The warm welcomes were comforting. But, the sad goodbyes weighed heavy. No matter how many times I've wished farewell, it never got easier. Shirley Horn's "Here's To Life" became my theme song.
Yet, life transitions are a natural part of the human experience.
Some are gradual and planned, like deciding to go to university or becoming an adult. Others can be spontaneous, such as getting fired from your job or placed under isolation for COVID19.
Some are happy, like getting married or moving to a new country. Others can be a nightmare, such as an accident or fleeing violence or persecution.
Whatever the transition, it is never easy. Stress, anxiety, frustration, worry, apathy, fatigue and sadness often accompany transitions. Some may even call it dysphoria; mildly put, it is the feeling of uneasiness and discomfort. If it involves adjusting to another culture, it is called Acculturation Stress - a topic I'll cover in a separate letter.
Prolonged transitions mean living with ambiguity. A life of uncertainty is like floating in the ocean. In the ocean's vastness, you cannot see your destination because everywhere looks the same. You cannot control your movement or direction because the ocean's currents determine it for you.
It would help if you found ways to reduce this sense of uneasiness and gain a sense of stability. When you have stability, you have a greater sense of safety and security. Then, you can better care for your physical and mental wellness, which fuels your energy and motivation towards reaching your desired goal.
There are a set of skills that will enable a smoother transition. To name a few, self-efficacy, self-reflection, independent learning, managing expectations, social skills, managing stress and critical thinking.
Learning and acquiring these skills is a lifelong process; sometimes, you need simple techniques to find calm and stability immediately. Here are some tried and tested methods I have used over the years.
Firstly, is to create a daily routine. A daily routine reduces stress that comes from unexpected events. Also, with a daily routine, you don't need to expend energy in making decisions. Instead, this energy can support the body and mind to adjust to the new environment.
Next is to become familiar with the environment. Walk around the neighbourhood. Find out where the facilities are, bus stops, metro stations, grocers, cafes, restaurants, parks, etc. Notice the sky, streets, signages, paths and people. Make a note of the sights, smells and sounds.
The more you walk, the more familiar the new environment becomes and the less alien it feels. The more you know the area, the more you become part of the new environment.
Finally, have some grace. You may feel guilty about making mistakes or feel anxious about your future. You may feel doubtful of your path or even feel sad, homesick or miss your previous life. These feelings are normal, so accept them as it is.
The best way to handle these difficult emotions is to have grace. Treat yourself with love and kindness, gentleness and forgiveness. Each person has their unique pace and ways of adapting and adjusting during transitions. So, do not judge or beat yourself up for not adjusting fast or well enough. Give yourself as much time and space as you need.
With all that said, will Lisbon be my last move? Will I finally find some stability?
There are lessons I have yet to learn in this city, and I'll let the universe reveal them when the time is right. Till then, let me return to my routine, daily walks and ample self-care.
Here are some posts that I've recently published.
- Life Lessons: When The Talking Stops, So Does The Relationship.
- Reading Notes: A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
As you may have noticed, I've decided to revive Life Lessons. Writing them has given me joy and I miss writing them dearly. Also, I've decided to publish my Reading Notes, which are notes taken while I read.
Hit reply to let me know what you think!
Miss Elle Tea