Most of you have probably heard of the famous 5 (or 7) stages of grief and loss, also called the Kübler-Ross model: Shock or disbelief sometimes combined with denial, anger, bargaining sometimes combined with guilt, depression, and finally acceptance and hope. It postulates a series of emotions experienced by terminally ill patients prior to death or humans that suffered great loss. Obviously I don’t want to compare my situation to a dying person’s. But I can’t deny that I observe myself going through a similar (yet way weaker of cause) phase of grief whenever I’m about to start my life all over again. It makes sense. I am really bad with losses, and it is only natural that I have an inner struggle where part of me is trying to resist the losses that are inherent in the process of leaving a life behind. Again.
This is the part that people don’t tell you about. Maybe they don’t want to be perceived as weak. Or because it is really difficult to explain to people that you have doubts, feel insecure and have troubles wrapping your head around what is going on. The most common reactions are ranging from “Why are you doing it then, if it makes you feel so bad?” to “You don’t have the right to complain. Look at how cool this is. You’re just trying to get attention”.
Shock or Disbelief & Denial
When I got accepted to study my Master in Göteborg, I was overwhelmed. I did it. I would be back in Sweden! It was definitely one of the most happy moments of my life. But shortly after I was just shocked. OMG. This is happening. I’m really doing it, am I?
Same thing, maybe even more, when I got the news that I would be moving to DC. I danced on the street, crying, screaming in my mom’s ear over the phone. Literally. Almost hysterical. And yes this is even more embarassing if you do it in a country like Sweden where people usually keep their feelings to themselves. I’m pretty sure random passerbys thought about having me sent to a mental institution. After these emotions had settled, I abrubtly switched to disbelief. I honestly thought somebody had just prank mailed me. For like 2 months. I was very cautious about telling anyone, as I was convinced that it would turn out to be fake. Until I had finally signed my contract. But even then there was some doubt left.
When I was packing up my stuff before leaving for Göteborg I got incredibly angry at myself. Who came up with that stupid idea? Why would I want to sell all my furniture? Give up the nice life I had built? And by all means!! It is so damn difficult to find accommodation! This sucks!!
I also got very angry at myself at some point when preparing for DC. Because I put so much extra stress on myself again. Because I leave a relationship to an insecure future. Because I purposefully leave the place where I feel home. Am I destroying my life on purpose? I mean do I have my priorities right?!
Bargaining & Guilt
Before moving to Sweden I was bargaining a lot. What if I just stayed and worked for the agency I was working for at the time. I liked the job and my collegues – why not just keep it that way? And I also felt guilty – “I’m leaving my family behind – am I egoistic?”.
Preparing for DC I went from “I mean its not gonna happen anyway” to “maybe I shouldn’t go… It so expensive and my life here is great. I mean you wanted to live in Sweden, why not stay?!”.
I would be all alone in Göteborg. Of course. And the Master would be way to difficult. They would find out that I wasn’t qualified enough. And it would be raining all the time. I would definitely get depressed in the cold Swedish winter. What a stupid idea.
The fear of being alone is also an issue now: you’re gonna be alone in a new city. You’re not studying there so how will you make friends? And honestly it’s not fun to loose people that mean a lot to you. Dating is really difficult if you have an unstable lifestyle like that. Moving away as soon as you found somebody you wanna be with is not a great feeling. It’s a good reason to feel depressed.
Acceptance and Hope
Well. Now all my stuff was packed. I felt kind of relieved even to not possess so many things anymore… Maybe it wasn’t the worst idea after all. Maybe, just maybe, there were even great new experiences waiting for me in Göteborg.
About DC: I finally got there. I knew it would come, but I knew I had to go through all the other emotions before, too. There are no shortcuts. And the doubts and insecurity never fully vanish until you get there. I am excited. I am full of energy. This year will be a crazy ride and I am ready to get on board.
The process is painful. I won’t lie. Every time. So why do I still do it? Again and again?!
Because it is a part of growing. This is me moving outside my comfort zone. Drastically. I understood that feeling the pain of loss is a sign that what you had really mattered. And I strongly believe that the things you are not willing to let go, you will find a way to keep in your life one or the other way. That means that some of my best friends live on other continents and I can’t hug them whenever I want and can’t walk across the street and cook dinner with them. Not ideal. It means that I have to go through goodbyes and I sometimes don’t know how final they are. But the alternative would have been to decide against this lifestyle and never having met them in the first place! Things are constantly changing for all of us. And that is scary. If we decide to manage this change or if we just wait for it to happen.
So I decided to embrace the change. And that I still have the right to feel the pain – because it’s human. But I also know that there are many exciting experiences waiting to be made and so many amazing people waiting to be met.
3 weeks to go. I hate it. And I love it. And I’m sure, I’ll be back. But for now – I am leaving on a high note.