2019 was a rough year for me. I felt out of place, uncertain, overwhelmed—like my life had been uprooted. A plant yanked out of the ground rather than a seedling pre-emptively watered, carefully dug up, padded in burlap, with the root structure lovingly secured for replanting.
Our resettling from Copenhagen to Zürich was not gentle for me. It was fast and I felt like I shouldered the brunt of the work—especially as my husband started his new job before both his contractual start date and his official last day at the Danish office. It still feels like I’m expending more emotional effort making Zürich feel like home, but at least the husband and the dog are fairly settled and happy. Their contentment makes it a little easier to believe that leaving Denmark might not be the worst thing ever.
This time last year I had just given notice at a job I liked and was good at. Where I was surrounded by supportive colleagues who believed in my abilities, sought out my input, and occasionally got drunk alongside me at Friday bar. I was about to announce my departure to the co-operative yoga studio where I’d found (and helped create) a beautiful, welcoming community. We had started to break the news to our friends and extracted promises to come visit. I’d hurriedly met with a relocation consultant about the logistics of moving our stuff. I was strategising how to transport our dog and ensuring her veterinary requirements were in place. My visa application was underway and I was waiting to hear when I’d have to travel to Stockholm to submit all the documentation at the Swiss Regional Consular Centre for the Nordic and Baltic Countries. I was also preparing to meet my teenage niece in London for her first European trip as well her first time alone on an airplane.
January 2019 was full of frenzy. January 2020 is much quieter, with much more time to ruminate. It’s nice to have a breather and the opportunity for contemplation, but it’s also letting my brain fill with ‘what-ifs’ and ‘what-nows’—and the sense that life is incomplete, imperfect, and a little uncomfortable in Switzerland. That comes along with the feeling that I’m doing everything wrong. My mind tells me that not feeling ‘at home’ in Zürich is clearly all my fault. I was able to build a happy, fulfilling life in Copenhagen with lots of support and connections and a strong sense of worth. Why haven’t I been able to make that happen here?
As I contemplate the year past and the year to come, one line in Neil Gaiman’s annual New Year’s blog post rings particularly true:
I hope that, for all of us, in the year ahead, kindness will prevail and that gentleness and humanity and forgiveness will be there for us if and when we need them.From A NEW YEAR’S THOUGHT… posted on January 31, 2019 by Neil Gaiman
I need the reminder to be kind and gentle with myself and my new city and all the people and experiences that come my way. And being able to forgive to the universe (and probably my husband, too) for a premature Danish departure would likely lift some the fog and allow me to enjoy the Swiss sunshine—and perhaps make this place feel more like home.
Gaiman specifically talks about the refugee experience in his last post of 2019 (he’s a tremendous supporter of UNHCR) and I cannot possibly compare my plight to that of millions of forcibly displaced people around the world. But these hopes for the year ahead—kindness, gentleness, humanity, forgiveness—are universal. It doesn’t matter if you’ve resettled, are long-settled, or something in between we could all use the reassurance and optimism these words bring.
Photo by Markus Spiske