Updated: Apr 30, 2020
Today is my birthday. Tomorrow, for the first time in my 26+ year career as an educator, I will not report to work at a school. I will not be a full-time salaried employee at an international school.
It’s weird for me. The only other time I didn’t show up for orientation or teacher meetings, I was on maternity leave. My husband will go to school, see all our friends, learn the new initiatives of the year, see the construction projects. In one week, our sons will return to school – grades 1 and 5 – and meet their teacher, greet their friends, see what’s new on the playground and in the library.
And I will stay at home. Working for me. Self-employed. Sole proprietor of a consulting business I am starting. Making my own hours, chasing my own income. Working across international schools rather than within one. Supporting schools with transition programs. Aleka Bilan Consulting. Took me all summer to find a company name that stuck with me (ha!).
We talk about transitions all the time: status updates with life events, moving from here to there, birth and death. And they are tumultuous. And big. And… boil down to these small moments: up since 2 am with jetlag, watching boys build LEGO’s, contemplating my place in the cosmos.
Every 6 months, 8 50-pound suitcases, 1 carry-on and 1 personal item per person, 3 trolleys piled high. Anywhere from 32-48 hours of transit – cars, vans, trains, planes, taxis.
Globally mobile teachers this time of year are posting similar shots on Facebook and Instagram: “Packing light!” they comment.
This time of year, hundreds of teaching families and their dependents are moving to a new country, greeted (in the best cases) by smiley, attentive orientation teams who help them set up a laptop, a SIM card, a WiFi password, a banking account. They learn about each other in the “newbie cohort,” eat local food, learn some host-country phrases. There’s the trip to IKEA or Carrefour for supplies, grocery shopping in a mega-supermarket, trying to find food that’s recognizable. For me, it was always peanut butter. If I could find that, then I knew my family would get protein and a shot of sugar and be OK until the next meal.
Settling into a new home and trying to find a routine among the jetlag, managing the emotions and mood-swings of dependents, pets, yourself. Experiencing SO. MUCH. NEW. It can be overwhelming to the senses and the emotions. This is transition on steroids; it’s hard, every time. Think of a snake shedding its skin to reveal a new one – it’s not pain free!
So in the middle of this cycle of change, take a moment.
Lean into the jetlag. Watch a movie, read a book. Listen to the birds waking up outside.
Soon, the school year will start. You will get into a classroom, an office, a library and remember that this is what you DO. This is what you’re good at. This is what they hired you for.
I will give myself the same pep talk. Set up a new office space. Plan out my day. Look at my tasks. Start this new work with schools, helping all of us through transitions.