It has been three weeks since we landed in Denmark, the country of my birth that I left 24 years ago for the US. Twenty one days of an absolute whirlwind of getting our kids enrolled in school, starting my new job, moving into our temporary apartment, buying furniture, battling jet lag, doing all of the documentation for my husband’s residence application, findings doctors and dentists, buying a broken car that we didn’t think was defective , and all of the many daily things that we do as parents to ensure that our four children feel like they are settled as well. Three weeks of the craziest to-do list I have ever worked through as an adult.
And I suppose that today the dust settled just enough for me to take a moment and take it all in, to surrender not to the to-do but to the to-be and while there has been so much joy surrounding this decision to uproot our entire lives to pursue a better future, today the sadness also hit me. Not just for those I left behind, who I miss so dearly, but for the me that I left behind as well.
I am not a teacher currently, couldn’t even get an interview when I tried. I am no one’s expert. I am no one’s close friend or confidante. Beyond the scope of my family, no one relies upon me to be in their immediate vicinity and help. I am not a go-to person for those I work with or trusted yet.
Because here in Denmark I am just Pernille. Just a Dane that moved away and now came back. Not a facilitator, coach, or expert in anything.
Just Pernille who doesn’t know how to do her job and has so much to learn. No one emails to collaborate. No invitations to go teach others. No opportunities to write, to learn, to grow besides the ones I carve out for myself.
You would think it might be freeing but it turns out it is really lonely. It feels scary. It feels like I have completely left so much of what I held valuable within my identity behind and have no idea whether I will ever get to be that again. And I miss it. A lot. More than I thought.
And so I think of the students in our care who show up new to us. Who perhaps also left so much behind with the previous teachers that they had meticulously built, who had a place and a space in their previous years that we know nothing of. Who are hoping we see their value, who are hoping we see their need to be seen. To be known. To be something more than just another kid we teach. How do we create opportunities for them to be known? How do we create opportunities for them not to feel less than but instead continue to build on the momentum they had?
We start with conversations and invitations. We listen more than we speak. We offer opportunities for genuine collaboration and for them to show off what they already are and what they already can do. And we ask questions about them and we offer opportunities for them to fill in the blanks on the questions we don’t even know to ask. And we plan for it because it cannot be left to chance.
Because starting over may be freeing in so many ways but it is also exhausting, even embarrassing at times when you don’t know how to act, when your sense of self is based upon things that are no longer present.
And so we sit together in the messiness of not knowing each other and recognize the power of the moment. We slow down enough so that we remember why we came together in the first place; not just to teach, but to learn. About the world, about ourselves, about each other.
And we give ourselves grace. We embrace all of the moments and all of the emotions. And we breathe and plan and adjust and readjust and hopefully inch by inch, or should it be centimeter by centimeter, we grow into this brave new world and continue our journey. Even if it feels overwhelming right now.
I know we made the right decision for our children to move home, not just for their future, but for their now. I hope it was also the right decision for us, their adults, I hope I find a place to fit in again. I hope I can be Pernille, someone who means something more, again.