This is the 2nd entry in my 3-part remix of the “Welcome to Holland” essay (you can check out part 1 Here). Happy reading!
So here you are: you packed for Hawaii but you got Finland. Those surfing lessons did you a whole lot of good, right? No grass skirts here either. But rather than throw a tantrum (or maybe you already have), you’ve begun to get the lay of the land, you’ve started learning the local language, and you set off to immerse yourself in the local culture. What’s next?
4. Give Yourself Permission to be Homesick
At this point you’re moving along: you start to realize that – while it’s no Hawaii – Finland isn’t such a bad place to be. The people are nice, the schools are great, you like the food. You’re growing accustomed to being in this new place. But then – and this happens to all of us – you get a little “homesick.” It seems like the train your on has hit the brakes and refuses to budge and you’re one step away from a total meltdown. You’re frustrated, you’re tired, you’re scared. Again, this happens to all of us. And you know what? It’s ok. It’s ok to have those moments where you scream out, “I DIDN’T ASK FOR THIS!” or “THIS ISN’T FAIR!!!” And the big toddler inside your head is just throwing himself all over the place.
You need to realize that prior to being on this journey, most of us were completely unfamiliar with serious illnesses and what it’s like to be a caregiver. Instead we focused on having kids, putting them in soccer, cheering them on at graduation, and sending them to an awesome school that hopefully has a fun basketball team to watch. But instead you got this. This is different. And it isn’t what you planned for…but remember: no one can plan for this. And this…this is an amazing journey when you just open your eyes. In the meantime, though, if you’re having an “it’s not fair” moment, I just want you to know that it’s ok. When you move somewhere new, somewhere unfamiliar, it is expected for you to be a little homesick. And those feelings won’t last forever…so express them and then you’ll be ready to move along…it’s just a bump in the road.
5. Climb the Mountain
Yes, friends, there’s a mountain there in your own personal Finland. In fact, it’s a chain of mountains and it’s not regarding the obvious thing like your child’s CHD. These mountains are all the other stuff. For you, your mountain might be financial, or emotional, or relationship-based. For others it might be surrounding education, or feeding, or weight gain. You can’t avoid these mountains…you must climb them. Some are tall, some are short. Some are “easier,” some are long-term. Sometimes the weather is great, sometimes you can barely hold on:
But you must be ready to climb: there’s no skating through this journey. The good news is that while you’re climbing that mountain, you’re going to come across others who are climbing that mountain, too. Make friends with them, so it’s not a lonely climb. Which leads to my next point:
6. Slow Down and Help Other Travelers
Remember when I talked about immersing yourself in the culture? Remember when I talked about seeing others climbing your same mountain? Well those people will have helped you along the way, I promise you. And just like they kept you from losing your ever-loving-mind, you need to pay that forward too. I think it’s the responsibility of all of us to try to help even one traveler who has just arrived in Finland. It’s not a race, it’s not a contest…it’s a marathon and we’re all on the same team. Listen guys, people are arriving in Finland every day, over and over again. And they’re scared, their confused, their frustrated…just like you used to be. At this stage in the journey you’re continually seeing how awesome Finland is…so let’s get together and be a welcome party for our new friends! No, we’re not gonna be like “Welcome to Finland, it’s so much fun!” nor will we be like “Welcome to Finland dude, it sucks here by the way.” We need to greet our new arrivals with empathy: “Welcome…I know what it’s like…take my hand and lets go together.” It’s a powerful thing when you work as a team. There is a lot of truth in the old African proverb that says, “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
The reason I started this blog was to serve this purpose exactly. There have been – and continue to be – many people who have helped me when I arrived to Finland, and I felt like it would be a sad thing if I kept that gift to myself. This blog is a labor of love and I really hope it’s helped many of you along your way!
We’re almost there, guys! I hope you’ve enjoyed this series so far: please make sure to share it with others if it’s meant anything positive to you. As always, I really appreciate comments too. Stay tuned for the 3rd, and final, installment soon!