Culture Shock

cul·ture shock
noun
  1. the feeling of disorientation experienced by someone who is suddenly subjected to an unfamiliar culture, way of life, or set of attitudes.

….. my experience, in a nutshell, when I think of how to best describe the feelings I had upon moving to Charlotte, North Carolina.

Anyone who knows me well, knows that I have done my fair share of traveling throughout my life.  I have lived in six different states all on opposite sides of the US coast, and been to all but a few states in-between.  So no, this area is not especially “foreign” to me nor is the act of picking up and moving to a new and different territory without knowing many people who reside there.  Why then, was the move here so incredibly disparate to me?  That was the question I asked myself countless times until recently stumbling upon my realization.

I decided to move here with a friend after randomly choosing the area because my friend knew one person that lived in the city.  My friend and I were excited to move anywhere with less than four months of the winter season because we were breaking out of the North and bitter cold.  I was just coming out of a particularly ferocious winter in New York and she was residing in Maine at that time where there was always plenty of frost and snowfall.  The two of us decided that knowing one person in the area was better than knowing zero people and took a leap of faith, just visiting once to meet others, explore the area, and find a proper apartment to live.

When we visited the city of Charlotte just a mere two months before our permanent move (since we are crazy and already set in our plans), I fell in love.  I was in love with city as soon as we landed, loving the weather which was sunny and in the 70s in March (meanwhile we had a 10″ snowfall in Syracuse), loved the people who were so welcoming and fun, and it just so happened that I met my future husband the very day that I flew in.  Moving to Charlotte was my fate and I realized that from day one.  Well…. truth be told I may not have realized it immediately as I was bent over the toilet that night, after being a little too caught up in the festivities and the welcoming nature of the people in Charlotte and accepting all of their free shots of Fireball at the bars.  I hadn’t previously had the experience of Fireball and after that first day in Charlotte, I can honestly say I will never again accept even a single shot of it.  Memories of cinnamon burning my throat all evening and into the morning is a clear reminder for me to steer clear.  For all of you readers who have not had exposure to countless shots of this death juice, consider yourselves lucky.

Of course, my future husband, being the gentleman he is drove me home that night, held my hair back as my bad decisions were flushed down, tucked me in bed, and left.  He even returned the next day to check on me, and the next to show me and my friend the best parts of the city.  I suppose I should have seen instantly that he was a keeper after putting up with a new northern girl who seemed to be unable to control her liquor.  He was amazing from the very first moment I laid eyes on him, but that’s a whole other story that I will write about another time.  Charlotte was different to me for sure, in all these aspects.  I moved here a fresh graduate with my Master’s degree and a plan in mind to become a therapist and to become very successful in my career and life.  I suppose you could look at it as though I was young and naive to think everything would work out perfectly according to my plans, but I like to think that I was more dedicated, determined, and positive.

I didn’t count on the struggle to find a job right out of school in my field (even though I’d heard many horror stories), didn’t count on not passing my licensing exam, didn’t count on money struggles, and I had no idea what it was like to be out of school without the friendship circle that it brings directly to you.  This was new and different territory to me on so many levels; I felt stress and pressure and only had my friend/roommate as my sounding board for awhile as she was going through the very same struggles.  Without family and some of my closest friends here for those challenges, I was out of my comfort zone.  Previously, when I didn’t have them near me I was able to still connect with my peers in school and pour my all into my education and stay hopeful for my future after my degree.  When I moved after graduation, I realized things were definitely not going to be as easy for myself as I’d hoped.

As depressing as this is starting to sound, I promise it gets better.  I realized that my career wasn’t going through for me for a reason that was unclear at first and that maybe it wasn’t the perfect fit for me.  I loved the experience I had in school as I learned so much and my clients in therapy taught me a lot personally as well as gave me the wonderful opportunity to provide them with both hope and insight.  In studying to be a therapist, clients and the training changed my life and I like to think I had a positive affect on their lives too.  The nanny job I took to hold me over after moving here turned out to be one of the best things that happened to me as I connected with the family immensely and they grew to become so close to me and helped me through very difficult times.  My money struggles have only taught me to become stronger and appreciative of the things I do have in life whether they be material items, the people who have blessed my life, or the opportunities I get to travel.  I’ve learned to let go a little of my money and career stress of figuring it all out, and have started to focus more on the here and now and in taking everyday like it could be my last.  Yes, I still am looking to succeed more in a career but I no longer over-think and stress when I see things aren’t going according to plan.

After all, if things had gone according to plan I wouldn’t have met the amazing family I was a nanny for and they wouldn’t have become such a huge part of my life.  I wouldn’t have grown to appreciate things as much in my life as I do currently.  I might not be the same individual I am now, and may not even be married to my amazing husband.  I allowed myself to become open, trusting, positive, and carefree to be with him and I’m not so sure I’d have those same qualities if life went according to my “plan”.  I am constantly a work in progress and am far from perfect (aren’t we all?).  Everyday I have to work hard to let go of worries and stress as it is still unfamiliar to me, but it is important to me to live each day with a little less anxiety of much future and with a little more happiness and contentment.

© 2016 Jacquelyn Staggs

 

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