Re-Entry To-Do List

16 Tips for an Awkwardly Authentic Transition “Home”

  1. Get a Dramatic Symbolic Haircut. Do this as fast as you can. Mysteriously, this haircut will help you grieve the season of life you left behind and embrace this new unexpected season. Just trust me.
  2. Stop washing your feet so the henna stays on longer.
  3. Mark every first experience as SOOOO Symbolic.  Pumping gas your own gas for the first time in 5 years?  SOOOO Symbolic. Signing a lease? SOOOO Symbolic. Registering kids for public school? SOOOO Symbolic.
  4. Cry at the grocery story.  It is cliché but do it anyway.  It is a rite of passage.  You may not even know why you are crying, but it feels so Dramatic and Symbolic and Wrong and Overwhelming to be at Publix, and you can’t even imagine that this is really where life has brought you again. 
  5. After that good cry, awkwardly give way too many details about your recent transition to your cashier when you have trouble using the debit card machine to pay for your groceries.  Who would have thought that even the card machines had changed? 
  6. Purge all your long skirts and scarves except that one tie-dyed green mumu with the sequins that you just can’t part with. Occasionally wear that one when you pick up the kids from school.
  7. Consider getting a Dramatic Symbolic Tattoo but get stuck considering the paradox of living out this impermanent life with ink permanently marking your body.
  8. Have a mild panic attack every time someone asks where you are from.   
  9. Religiously avoid filling out paperwork until you have your new address and phone number memorized.  This will take longer than you think.
  10. Keep a minimum of three types of currency in your wallet at all times for at least the next 6 months.    
  11. Faithfully avoid using your left hand in public, even though it makes going through a drive-thru particularly awkward.
  12. Have required “talks” with your kids before going anywhere. Remember, we don’t pee in the trees at the park. Remember to bring your shoes and yes, you must wear them. Yes, you can drink the water here.
  13. Be frustrated that no one can recognize how much you don’t belong.  On the outside, after all, you look just like everyone else (after your henna has faded and when you aren’t wearing that green mumu, that is).  But you feel entirely other on the inside, your scars and anxiety neatly hidden from view.
  14. Find a place to worship. The local church will bring up all kinds of feelings, some positive, some negative. Just close your eyes and sniffle (or ugly cry) through the songs.  God will meet you right there through familiar (and not so familiar) lyrics that have new meaning.
  15. Ask for help. All the things you must do to establish a life in this country once again will feel like too much. In fact, it is too much. It takes humility to recognize that you don’t know all the answers and maybe don’t even know which questions to ask. It is okay to admit weakness. It is okay to ask for help. It is okay to accept help. You will find that humans mostly like to help each other.
  16. Share your story with a real live person. You don’t have to explain yourself to everyone you encounter. But you do need a human or two who will listen without judgment and who will encourage you as you figure out who you are in this old/new context.

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