As some readers may know, I recently got married. We are definitely still in the
honeymoon phase. It has been lovely. And we know it will change and that the real work starts then. This is similar to returning to a familiar environment. You have the thrill of return – of accessing things you missed. Ironically, we rarely think about the hard work in our return starting after this.
For subscribers to Nextpat, you’ve received our “Stages of Repatriation” one-pager. You may also have seen the rollercoaster ride that is re-entry in our Preparing Kids for School article (back when that wasn’t done at home – though in our prescience much of what we talk about remains applicable today!)
I go into what is going on here in our Stages of Repatriation, so subscribe to the site for that, but today I’d like to discuss this second curve, why it happens and how we can use it to build a better way forward. See Stage 5 – Honeymoon and thrillingly Stage 6 – Crisis (or also Reality Check). Then you see Stage 7 – Adjustment, or laying the groundwork for the rest of your journey. As you can see from the graphic, it’s a much steeper “crisis” the second go-round. The adjustment is also longer. What’s going on here?
In a word, the second curve is about community. When we return home, we’re excited to share our journey and reconnect with old friends and family. No doubt, they are too. The first few weeks or months you probably have a very full social calendar with lunches, coffees, dinners, and playdates. As you reconnect you may go through the first “U” in the rollercoaster, but you’ve got a solid support system and a vision of what returning home will look like based on these early welcomes.
A few weeks or months later you realize you haven’t seen some of those folks in a while. In fact, you haven’t even heard from them. Ah, you think, I should reach out. But maybe there is a niggling worry in the back of your head that perhaps everyone moved on without you. Do you have to start from scratch? How do you reintegrate into your community?
Indeed, building community is critical to adaptation. It is what we seek out when arriving in a new country and certainly the cornerstone of social engagement and sense of belonging upon your return to your passport country. For those who’ve taken our reorientation seminar, you will find several of the ideas below familiar. We provide these as things to think about to balance out that reintegration and worry. You will need to rebuild, but it’s not all from scratch.
1. Expectations Management. We talk about this a lot at Nextpat. What is the story you’ve told yourself about what your community will look like when you return? What do you plan to do to make this happen? Many of us are pre-disposed to assume that our friends and family have paused their lives where we were. We think we’ll pick up right where we left off and it’ll be the same, the same visits, inclusion, etc. But in the same way that we created our lives away, our friends and family have filled that space with other friends or priorities and we have to win them over again, in a sense.
2. Acknowledge the change. It can be hard to not wallow in our own sorrow of loss. But there is value in acknowledging that things have changed and that your approach to it will also have to shift to achieve your goals. Acknowledging it objectively can help shift from wallowing to action.
3. Understand how you Connect and How that Works for Others? What connection points do you have with your community? Do you talk and text regularly or do you have folks over? How often are you connecting with them and in what types of ways? As mentioned above, people have found others in the community to fill your space, and may need you to reach out more in ways that are more conducive to their new way of engagement. Asking friends and family how you can reintegrate can help you find your place in your community again.
4. Be Persistent. This one is tough. It is hard to reach out and continue inviting folks over when they seem too busy or uninterested. But it’s also critical. In the way that when you go to a new place you take up every invite to build the community, when you return home you must put out those invites to build your community.
5. Find new Avenues. When you return, you may have found your interests and goals have changed. Find new communities at home that might align with these new interests. You might find your old community equally interested and find a way to bridge your new experiences and theirs through a new medium all together. Alternatively, you could try using a new app to stay in touch. I recently spoke with Uchi founder Kevin Strauss, who’s app allows you to develop more meaningful relationships with a smaller group of people than the traditional social media model of more shallow likes from more people.
Remember that after the honeymoon and crisis is adjustment. But even our adjustments will have ups and downs. Change is part of life, how we weather those storms is the mark of our adaptability and resilience.
Returning home or moving to a new culture means finding a new community. This is challenging in the best of times and particularly so in this unique pandemic-moment. If you’d like to chat about what’s working for you or not, reach out and see if coaching or a workshop is a good fit to support your goals.