How on earth am I going to do this?
How can we survive here?
Here in this drought, here in this soil?
That was the questions from this tiny seed from Switzerland. A friend of mine had given it to me. It was in a small nice designed bag. Bought in a garden shop in that tiny country of Europe. Probably for a greenhouse.
She gave it to me and said “make it grow”.
I decided to do that, and the result was of a small bitter cucumber, but I did it.
I remember the morning I started digging.
The gardener was upset with me. “Why madam, Why? Cucumbers cannot grow here, and they are cheap at the market.“
How should he know what growing a vegetable garden meant to me.
This was part of a process, something big going on inside me.
History of change
I was a global professional writing a new chapter in my personal history of change. My history of career transition. And I needed something to water. More than my three children, dog and husband.
To the gardener I am sure I had the perfect life. More than enough of everything, but inside me I had this urge to do more. To be a part of something. To take my car in the morning, drop of kids and go to work….. more than that, I needed to contribute.
Through these cucumbers it became possible for me to live the transition.
If this Swiss seed could grow, I could grow.
Live the transitions – day by day
What is it all about? It is about feeling yourself, I know that now after I have gone through a number of transitions. I have moved to 4 foreign countries, but transitioned a lot more. I am counting at least 8 major transitions.
Alone, young and urban moving to Norway from Denmark. Older and a young wife of a diplomat with small kids, moving into a civil conflict. Later as a more mature woman with older kids, suddenly again with a newborn and a dog. Where did all these responsibilities come from? How did we do it? We did it, we lived the transitions day by day.
When I first saw the competency matrix of here we are global, it made me thoughtful and content. It was the first time I saw something in writing, that perfectly described what I have been through.
I remember especially my first two postings were full of a feeling of loneliness. Why? It was like no-one understood me. People at home had no clue how it was for me, sleeping my first night in Norway on an air mattress that had a puncture, with minus 20 degrees outside. It was very dark, and I missing my boyfriend. Nobody understood why I had left in the first place.
Why did I have this strong need to challenge myself? Actually my friends back in Copenhagen mid 1990’s were very similar to the Ethiopian gardener two decades later: Why on earth do you need to do this?
Support and learn from others
But seeing something in writing has supported me. And that is the purpose of here we are, we are here to help each other. Reach out and learn from others.
Where I am now, I have had so many experiences that it seems hard to put them in writing for you. A feeling of: where should I start? But I know that here we are global gives me a platform to reach out to a lot of people, a place where we can share and tell each other here I am.
I still don’t know why I challenged myself by moving to cold Norway or by growing cucumbers in fairly warm and dry Ethiopia, but I am very very grateful I did. Both growing a cucumber and moving to Norway back then in ’95 before So-Me and Skype-connections, I learned to live the transition. I learned to stay relevant.
“Find a way to fix the punctured mattress, or get a new one, my inner self told me.”
I went to work the first day in Oslo, and as a true princess from a fairytale, I was feeling blue and green all over. And there was the solution, a friendly colleague telling me: you can borrow my madras.
That was my first step back then: to establish life balance – get some sleep.
My time in Norway was already turning out to be an amazing learning experience. I now think, it was meant to be. I learned on my own, the hard way, lying freezing on the floor, how to built a life in a new place. It prepared me for a life with a lot of transitions. But of course, at that time I didn’t know that the boyfriend became my husband, my husband became a diplomat and this turns out to be the first transition of many to come.
Mindful global change
Those days in Norway also became my first learning experience of a global mindset. Even though our cultures in Scandinavia are very similar, there are nuances enough to make you feel different. I had to embrace the culture and absorb every small thing, from May 17.th (Norwegian national day) to eating rømme (a sour cream kind of thing). My Danish became Scandinavian and my friends in Copenhagen smiled at me when I came home to visit.
But those experiences prepared me for something. I learned to master a global setting. Like staying calm, also 15 years later when you suddenly find yourself in the middle of a voodoo festival in West Africa with two children. It showed me that all cultures are amazing and beautiful, but some can be easier to embrace than others. Like Ethiopian coffee combined with an amazing view, that is an easy culture to love.
In conclusion I will tell you, we are never alone, but change is a way of challenging yourself. There are waterfalls out there, and they can take over in either negative or positive behaviour. It all starts with you: be a master of your change and stay mindful. That will help you find your way.
Anne-Marie Schönemann is a physiotherapist currently based in Denmark, she is also here we are global’s focal point on life and health. Also read about staying professional on the move in Anne-Marie’s blogpost Sharing opportunities for growth.