I just hit my 6th year anniversary at the dead end of December and it making me feel strange and a little old. This number of years is starting to sound like a lot. Not just a couple, not just something short-term, but it’s starting to feel truly permanent. People ask me if I’m ever going to move back to the States and I’m starting to think I won’t, at least not in the foreseeable future. But one weird thing is that I can’t imagine myself as an old person in Poland. As a young person it seems like an adventure and as an old person it seems like a sham. Is that weird? Anyway, here are 6 things that these 6 short, fast, where-the-hell-did-the-time-go years have taught me.
1. All things can be fixed. That means there’s not much point in worrying. I’m generally a worrier. I get stressed easily and it’s something I’m trying to work on. It seems that in my life here in Poland, I have a constant stream of bureaucratic nightmares, which sometimes seem to have no solution. But let’s be honest, if something needs to be done in Poland, there’s a way. Someone will figure it out. That’s what people here are famous for, right? We always find a solution and there was always no reason to worry. I’m learning this, just at my own pace.
2. Moving abroad makes you tougher. OMG you don’t have air conditioning? OMG you don’t have a drier? OMG you only have a bathtub, no shower? How do you survive without those things? I hear that from Americans all the time. When I moved, I had to adjust to a lot of what some people would call “inconveniences”. When you have those things, it’s hard to imagine living without them. When you don’t have them, you don’t really feel the need for them. Not to mention navigating the world without full language capacity and trips to Urząd Skarbowy. You learn to live without all the conveniences you had before and life is still good.
3. America doesn’t do everything best. In fact, we don’t do that much well. Public transportation is garbage. We live very lavishly, well beyond our means. Food is often poor quality and not valued as nutrient-providing but rather a chore. In Poland food is the center of many get-togethers, it’s celebrated. My friends were laughing with us recently because they said Poles eat so much – big meals and cake – but they aren’t fat. How is it possible? In America we drive everywhere. It’s such a luxury that in Europe we can walk on a daily basis if we want to.
4. Traditions have value. I was never a very traditional person, especially coming from America where many people don’t know what their family’s history is and therefore don’t ascribe to the traditions from generations past. We had some family traditions which were nice but they were new, something we had come up with together, which of course has it’s own charm and merit and I think is important, but what about old school traditions in terms of food and celebrations? I feel that more strongly in Poland and it makes me feel more connected to people, even if they’re not exactly my traditions.
5. Less is more. Especially after building a house, I realized sometimes it’s better to live below your means. When you want more, your life just gets too complicated. When I moved to Poland, I didn’t have anything except some clothes and I was fine. I had to buy the essentials like kitchen equipment, etc. but otherwise I got used to living on less. And now I hate having things which I don’t need or use. It certainly makes moving easier and it definitely makes your life less complicated. If you can live on less, you’ll be better for it.
6. People are inherently good. I think this lesson is probably the strongest for me. I’ve had so much help over the years from people who hardly knew me and didn’t owe me anything. Of course you experience the odd evil person or two out there, but honestly ratio of good to bad is much in the favor of good. The people you meet, who come and go but influence you positively, are what you value the most and need the most if you’re going to overcome the difficulties of life in general, but especially living abroad. It’s comforting to know that even though they might not be a replacement for family, they can be a good substitute.
6.5. New challenges are constantly approaching. The house is basically done so now we’ve got to move on to a new challenge. Our baby boy will be born in May. More to come later 🙂