I’m going to try my best to articulate an experience I’ve been having since I’ve been living here in Panama. I am going to assume that this is all a part of adjusting and I wonder if this feeling is one that other expats have also experienced , or am I the only nutty one,(which I’m happy to embrace, I got no problem with being “NUTTY”) I’m not one to complain and I hope this post doesn’t come across as whining, but… Since I arrived in my new home just about three months ago, I’ve been experiencing, at times, a rather odd sense of total disorientation. I hope I can accurately describe what I mean by that. I seem to have lost any and all sense of direction when I’m in a store or just generally walking around town . It’s not just that I don’t know where I am, that’s nothing strange , I just moved to a new town in an entirely new country , I expect to feel this type of “lost”. But what I’m talking about is hard for me to put into words, possibly , “spacial awareness”? Is that what it is? I don’t know. All I know is for example, when we are in Romero’s shopping for groceries I am constantly in peoples way, I never seem to realize when someone is trying to get past me or which way I should push my cart to avoid an oncoming shopper. I feel such a strange , unfamiliar sense of confusion when I’m out in public, which for me is just crazy. I’ve never felt such a sense of feeling as though I need to be very careful with each and every step I make as I am walking around. Maybe it has to do with my inability to culturally pick up on social cues? I usually think of myself as a very intuitive person, I like to be courteous and thoughtful and I admit to almost feeling a sense of pride in myself for being able to intuitively pick up on the needs of those around me. I seem to have lost that ability and this, in part makes me feel rather lost in public. In addition to feeling so inept and a bit confused, I cant’ even express to the people around me how sorry I am. “No, really, this isn’t how I am!,” “I’m not usually so stupid!” “I didn’t mean to roll my cart over your foot! I’m soooo sorry!” GEESH! And they all seem so kind and mostly patient with this strange gringo who can hardly push a shopping cart through the store. I wonder what I must look like to them?
Scott thinks I’m just overwhelmed. There’s just too much to process so I’m just a little bit out of it. Every single thing about this new place has me feeling as though I’m upside down most of the time when I’m in town. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, how they behave, How I’m supposed to behave to be polite, Just about every aspect of life for me is entirely unknown and new. I was surprised today , when Scott and I were in Romero’s and unbeknownst to me, a man was coming up behind me, Scott said, very calmly,”look out!”, I just kinda froze, with a terrified look on my face, I didn’t know which way to move and felt so nervous. My response was inappropriate, He didn’t say it in an urgent manner or in a mean way at all, my reaction was just kinda strange. I’m so unaccustomed to this feeling of constant and long-term disorientation everywhere I go. Today was the first time I actually talked about it with Scott and I felt somewhat relieved to hear him say that he has noticed my apparent disorientation. I’ve been thinking it for some time but have been thinking that it would soon pass, as I’m sure it will.
In a much earlier post, before we moved, I promised to write about not only the good things about becoming an Expat, but to also share the challenges. Well, I seem to have come up with one (although this one may be just “me”) . I’m sooooo damn confused and disoriented by everything around me. Given the fact that I’ve never, in my 47 years, moved out of California I’m out of my element in more ways than one. Yes, I moved from Morgan Hill to Mountain View, Los Altos area in my twenties, but now, having moved to an entirely different country it’s proving to be an overwhelming experience for me. Almost nothing is recognizable. Even the simple fact that I’m not a familiar person here, no one knows anything about who I am. So that sense of knowing that comes from seeing familiar faces and familiar places and knowing that people around me know the type of person I am is not a “given” here. Lucky for me, Scott seems unaffected by this dilemma. As usual , the guy just glides through such an enormous life transition without seeming to be one bit disoriented. He constantly amazes me with his ability to overcome new experiences and to adapt so , seemingly easily, to all this newness that surrounds us. I honestly think he is in his element.
I’m really learning a lot about myself and about my perception of myself. I like to think of myself as a pretty easy going, relaxed kinda gal, going through life with my rose colored glasses at times, to make everything just a little prettier, a natural optimist, is how I like to see myself. But my “rose colored” glasses are only confusing me at the moment, nothing looks familiar even with the “rose color”! So the realist in me is poking it’s head out, (not a common occurrence for me). I realize I will adapt and this life will become more familiar and I will eventually learn how things work here. Surly I’ll soon find myself feeling as though this is where I belong. Soon? I look forward to coming to the realization , one day, that I no longer feel so disoriented. Because I know this must be , for me, just part of my adjusting period. I’m certain each person, no matter where they move, has a period of time when they must familiarize themselves to the new world around them. It’s exciting and I am not fretting too much. I love so many things about this choice to move and to embrace a new life which will naturally include many new and different experiences . I knew that there would be challenges and maybe I would face certain aspects of this new beginning that would be hard, but this isn’t too bad. I’m not one to wallow in negativity or let a difficulty cause me to feel defeated, noooo, not this girl! I plan to adapt and to grow and to change because anything less is just not acceptable,not to mention no fun at all! I may be a tiny bit disoriented and at times kinda confused and always a tad nutty, but I’m soooo happy to be living my adventure my way I’m fine with my temporary confusion, it’ll pass. Everyday is an Adventure and with each new day it begins again…