After 20 years of living in Germany and the US, I have learned many valuable lessons. The good and bad experiences have prepared me for where I am today. As I reflected on how our lives have changed over the past year, I realized that moving and living in different countries helped me survive during this pandemic.
In this blog post, I will share ten things that I experienced living in different countries that prepared me for living through a pandemic. Check out my "Her Relocation" blog posts about my experiences so far.
Lesson #1: Adapting quickly to unexpected situations
When I moved to Germany in 2001, I had no idea what my life would be like years later. I quickly learned that adapting to unexpected situations was necessary for me to thrive. I had grand plans on where I want to be in five years. If you have been following my journey, you know that my life in Germany brought many new experiences that I did not imagine. Fast forward to 2020, a year that made us all change our plans. I quickly accepted the situations and adapted to change, which was one key lesson I learned going through some disappointment and unexpected experiences.
Lesson #2: Missing family milestones and celebrations
Over the years, living in other countries, I have missed some major family milestones and celebrations. In the beginning, I used to get affected and be engulfed with wishing I was there in person to mark the occasions. I had to learn that I will miss milestones as part of living abroad, and it was ok. Coming to 2020, there have been many life events that we have not celebrated with our families. I still cannot believe that our families have not yet met our son.
Lesson #3: Adapting to spending holidays alone (or with my small family)
The first Christmas I spent alone in Germany was brutal. Coming from Nigeria, where holidays were a huge celebration, I was not ready for a cold and lonely time in Germany. It took me a few years to get used to the different holidays and build my own holiday traditions. I started really enjoying quiet holidays. When I moved to the US, my husband and I started spending a part of the holidays with our family in Southern California. In 2020, we did not get to spend any holidays with our family or friends. However, we made sure we enjoyed spending the holidays in a special way.
Lesson #4: Valuing your personal connections
The people that I have met on my journey have been one of the best parts of my life abroad. Especially in a year when everything was chaotic, I went back to the basics of what has helped me thrive on my journey. I reactivated my human connections, and they helped me through 2020. Reflecting on last year, I created some great memories with my friends and family virtually. I appreciate all the amazing people in my life.
Lesson #5: Create memories whenever you can
I strongly believe that the small memories that we make every day matter, not only the significant memories. My husband and I were very intentional about creating happy memories during the year. We wanted to be able to think back to 2020 and remember the small things that made us smile or brought us joy. As I have moved between cities and countries, I learned the value of keeping all my memories. I can still tell happy stories from my life in Nigeria, Germany, and the US.
Lesson #6: Find the small things you enjoy and do them
Especially when you make huge changes in your life, the little things start to matter even more. Celebrating the little things has made my journey so far unforgettable. I learned to make every win count. When I moved to the US, I was more intentional and celebrated the good things in my life. In 2020, acknowledging the small, good things that were in my life became even more critical. By focusing on the positive, I was able to survive the more trying times.
Lesson #7: Having empathy for people in different situations
During the pandemic, we have seen many people go through different situations. As I have lived in different countries, I have gotten to know people from different backgrounds. Building those relationships has taught me how to care for others whose experiences differ from mine. Having empathy for people changed how I view the world and become more aware of how it is not always about me. I appreciate the perspective that I have been granted through my experiences.
Lesson #8: Believing in yourself
We have all had to do things that we never thought we could do over the past year. We discovered that we are stronger than we think. Leaving home at the age of 15 to move to Germany, I did not know the strength and resilience I had. Now looking back on my journey, I had what it took to succeed. Although I had no idea what 2020 would bring, my strength and resilience was put to a test and I learned that I could survive this situation.
Lesson #9: Be thankful and appreciate the good
Especially during uncertain times and situations that we do not feel we can control; it is easy to focus on what is going wrong. My husband and I remind ourselves of the good in our lives and the privilege that we have. Not complaining and dwelling on what we do not have, has given me peace over the last year. My mindset is to be grateful no matter what happens in your life.
#10: Finding joy wherever I find myself
For the first seven years of my life in Germany, I silently wished I was somewhere else. I wanted to be back in Nigeria around my family and my community. This mindset hindered me from settling down and enjoying my life. After seven years, I decided to enjoy myself wherever I find myself. It has been a life-changing experience. These days, I am intentional about finding the good in my life where I am today. I now know that I can be happy in whatever situation that I find myself in.
We may not always understand why we experience certain things. However, I am convinced that there is a reason for everything and a lesson to be learned.
Time for Reflection