Dealing with uncertainty

It feels like there is a lot of uncertainty in the world at the moment. For many of course – Syrian refugees for example – uncertainty has become a normal and ongoing part of life. But for most of us, this uncertainty on a macro scale  is something new and something very scary. With my own home country on the Brexit rollercoaster with no idea of whether we will be part of the EU for much longer, how long our current Government will last, what effect all of this will have on food prices, our jobs, the future of the NHS; and the US with elections looming that have the potential to change not just their own country but really the history of the world, it’s no wonder that we turn in these times of crisis’ to humour about Marmite shortages and the comforting words of First Lady Michelle Obama.

But as expats, uncertainty on a micro scale is something we are used to.

A few years ago we were evacuated from Pakistan following the Mariott bombing of 2008. We were lucky in that it wasn’t an immediate evacuation – they prevaricated for ages about whether we should be sent home or not and once they had finally made up their minds we had another two weeks to prepare, pack and go. We took a detour to Thailand for a week’s holiday on the way back so in all it was five weeks from when the bomb went off until we touched down in the UK.

So a very difficult five weeks – two weeks or completely not knowing what our future was followed by another few weeks of confusion about where we would live when we got home, whether we could find a preschool place for our elder daughter, what would happen to my husband’s job, when we would get our heavy baggage back again…..

But even those few weeks of uncertainty faded into the background compared to the next few months. We managed to get back into our own home after a few months renting a holiday place near my parents. Our stuff eventually arrived, we managed to buy cars, my husband was given a job of sorts. But although physically things started to fall into place mentally and emotionally we were all over the place. Because our posting was cut very short (we only managed three months in Islamabad) we were promised a replacement. But because we were out of the normal postings cycle and for various other office politics reasons, it took them quite a long time to come up with a viable alternative.

So for months we had no idea whether we would be moving again, where we would be moving to, when we would be moving, what sort of job my husband would be doing, whether we would need to apply for school places for our daughter, whether I should start looking for a job or not…Those months of uncertainty were probably the hardest thing about the entire episode. Although the bombing itself was obviously very traumatic, we had good support and were surrounded by others going through the same thing as us. This time we were on our own.

Eventually it did all get sorted out and we moved to St Lucia in the summer of 2009. But I am reminded of that time again as we are currently going through another time of extreme uncertainty. We are trying to decide whether to return to the UK next summer or the summer after (all too do with schooling and education – as it so often is) and I feel sick with the not-knowing. I don’t think I do this indecision thing very well. I fret and I worry, I discuss it over and over with people. It plays on my mind and takes over all my thoughts. Once the decision is made I will be fine. I only wish someone would make it for us – then I wouldn’t feel so nervous about making the wrong one.

But as expats it really is something we all have to deal with. From terrorism events to job cuts, whether it be our own decision (as it is at the moment) or one made for us, not knowing exactly what lies ahead is part and parcel of this life. It doesn’t make it any easier but it is something we all go through.

So my question to you oh wise expats is how DO you deal with it? Do you have any tips or advice on how to get through these difficult times? What do you do when you find yourself laying awake at 3am night after night wondering what lies ahead, what will you do, where you will be? How do you stop those midnight demons, or the feeling of a total lack of control or the anger over not being able to apply for that job or accept that school place or even plan for next Christmas because you just don’t damn well know where you will be?

It’s hard. It really is. But we all go through it. So please, share your stories. Help me, help others. And perhaps, just maybe, we can use these skills to help the uncertainty of the world at the same time.


12 thoughts on “Dealing with uncertainty

  1. Hi Clara, your post really resonates with me as we are in the middle of huge change and continued uncertainty. I too am stressing in the middle of the night so you are not alone!
    We left Joburg in August after three and a half years to repatriate back to the UK. The main reason, like you mentioned, was education with my eldest having just turned 10. My husband is working for a further 6 months between here and Joburg – splitting his time to finish off in SA before moving back to work here.

    We haven’t gone back to our house in London here but have moved 1 hour out of London – we had got too used to space living in SA! So we are starting again in a new area, kids having to settle in new school, trying to sell our house in London, look for a house to buy and the rental house we have moved into here has just been sold so we will have to move again in 6 months. It all feels a lot and v uncertain.

    I question whether we have made the right decision, but the education did have its challenges in SA,but it’s hard giving up that wonderful joburg lifestyle!
    So I sympathise and as you say against the backdrop of all the uncertainly in the U.K. at the moment it all feels quite stressful!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I totally sympathise with the nagging feeling of uncertainty which, for me, seems to get stronger as the kids get older. We have stayed in one place for a long time but since my kids started school in England, I am questioning why we are still here in Kenya. However, after 18 years overseas and no guaranteed employment at the other end, the alternative (i.e. the prospect of going home) feels like jumping off a cliff.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I feel like you’ve had more than your fair share of uncertainty with several traumatic moves Clara. But if it’s not too kooky to say it, I do believe everything works out as its meant to. I’ve moved 11 times in the past 20 years, most of which were complete leaps of faith, but in the end they have all always worked out for the best and it’s been an amazing ride. Whatever you choose to do will be the right decision. (And if you’re collecting votes on stay or go, mine is stay, stay, stay!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. OMG Clara, this sounds just like me… constantly worrying about what’s next and the whole living in limbo feeling. And with my oldest 12 years old and getting ready for that last stage of school, it’s been a constant stressor on me. I’d like to say that I have a solution for that feeling, but I don’t. Instead, we acted spontanously when we returned from the US this summer and within a day decided to buy a house in the NL. It won’t change limbo forever, but our “plan” is for the oldest to finish out school here. As you know, plans constantly change and evolve, but for “now” we’ll be staying for at least a few years which makes that limbo feeling go away just a little bit. I hope it can for you soon too!!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi,

    Quick note. Perhaps I am being overly sensitive, but I don’t think I would have included the phrase “Syrian refugees” in this otherwise very interesting piece.



  6. Pingback: Heading Back During A Tumultuous Time - Knocked Up Abroad

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