5 Things I’ve Learned From Starting Over Five Times
Photo Credit: Vlada Karpovich/Pexels
I’ve started over five times. Every time, I put my life in a backpack — or suitcase when I got older — and some recycled Amazon boxes to build a new life from scratch. Over the last 15 years, I’ve lived in three countries, several time zones, and eight houses — hopefully, nine by the end of 2021.
I started with traveling to foreign countries to find myself, moved abroad, and then moved again. I learned new languages, changed careers, made new friends, and tried to make myself helpful.
How do you start over without losing what you’ve left behind, and when do you know it’s time to move on? Here are some things I’ve learned after reinventing my career, life, and my home so often.
Embrace What Makes You Different
When starting from scratch, one of the best things is that you can “reinvent” yourself and show your new acquaintances who you are from Day One.
When I was growing up, I often attempted to highlight how I was similar to my friends and family. When I first found myself in a foreign country, I couldn’t fit in no matter how much I tried. That’s how I discovered that being different wasn’t such a big deal after all, and I realized some people still liked me, despite my different opinions or preference for iced coffee.
I’m now working in an industry that favors differentiators and encourages people to lead with what makes them one-of-a-kind. I’ve learned to embrace my uniqueness and feel grateful for the freedom to share so much of myself with the people around me.
It was hard at first because I felt all eyes were on me. As I’ve learned from daily interactions and online psychology classes, it was all happening in my mind; people didn’t care about who I was or what I was doing. When we finally connected on a deeper level and they started to care, they were already used to my way of being and doing things.
Accept What You Can’t Change
Most supermarkets don’t sell the food I grew up with, my kids don’t know the songs I used to sing as a child because they don’t like my mother language, and I mostly see my sister in pictures and video calls. I’ve learned to accept these things as part of the new life I’m building.
Becoming comfortable with change has been a game-changer for me. It made me understand what was bothering me and helped me either accept it or find ways to work around it. On the other hand, anxiety and an unstoppable wish to change things never helped me.
When you’re just starting, you’re already outside of your comfort zone. You need to become aware that everything you achieve happens despite your situation, and you learn to celebrate the small wins every day. You rebuild your comfort zone, and as part of the process, you accept the new reality. And, when you feel strong enough to carry new battles, you pick your next fight.
Leave an Open Door Behind You
Every time I started over, I built new relationships while making sure that “old” friends still felt heard and seen. Thanks to social media and messaging apps, it doesn’t take much to keep in touch these days.
My secret is not stopping at liking someone’s new pic. If I’m interested in keeping that relationship alive, I’ll make sure I send a private message or call them on special occasions.
Sometimes, I plan trips to the old places where I used to live and make sure I have lunch or dinner with friends who still live there. If traveling back is off-limits, I send small gifts when I have a little extra cash on hand.
If you have a beautiful relationship with someone, don’t let it end because you can no longer see each other every other weekend. Find ways to remain connected to the people you care about, and maybe one day, you’ll be reunited again.
Keep Your Mind Open to Learning New Skills
Starting over implies changing jobs sometimes. It’s part of the game, and it can bring satisfaction beyond imagination. At first, I had to deal with insecurity and anxiety, but I realized that education and a willingness to learn new things were great allies against unemployment.
When I moved to Italy, not only did I take language lessons, but I also followed a pastry class and cooking lessons. And, ever since I had to change my career, I continued learning and acquiring new skills to find better job opportunities.
I’m working remotely now, so it’s less likely I’ll have to change careers again anytime soon. But I’ve made it part of my yearly goals to continue to add skills and experience to my wheelhouse. This way, if I face starting over again, I won’t feel lost.
It’s my permanent learning goal that helps me develop many skills I can rely on and makes me feel confident about being employable under changing circumstances.
Don’t Judge New People by Old Standards
When you move to a new place, you’ll meet people who may speak different languages and have a cultural background that is different from what you’re used to. Even if you move within the same country or just change jobs, you’ll need to learn new rules, habits, and ways of doing things.
Sometimes, you won’t appreciate the novelty because different isn’t always better. But you need to respect other people’s values and not use previous rapports to “evaluate” their skills or ability to communicate.
Before you move to a new place, try to learn a few things about the place where you’ll live or work. If you become aware of the cultural differences between you and the folks you’ll hang out with, you’ll more likely to understand why they do what they do and accept them for who they are. In return, they’ll do the same with you.
For as much as one can appreciate a good adventure, feeling back at square one isn’t always comfortable. Starting over has its challenges, but the results are worth the extra effort. The first weeks are the most challenging and most beautiful at the same time. Everything’s new around you, and the joy of accomplishing every little thing and accelerating your life more than ever before has no equal.