If you're anything like me, you hold strong convictions.
You've thought a lot about ideas and ethics, carving out a unique set of commandments for yourself through experience, education, culture, and plain old trial and error. And I bet most of these standards you've set for yourself are hard and fast.
Although I have robust opinions about many things, I also know that my success in rolling with life's uncertainties is a willingness to change my mind.
Destroy Your Assumptions
If you are planning a significant life change (moving to Portugal?) or just anticipating getting through another year of virus-y uncertainty, I recommend you learn to change your mind. Especially when it comes to those deeply-held, clinging-tightly-to assumptions.
As an immigrant in Portugal, I've witnessed commonly shared beliefs play out in my life and in the lives of new residents or wannabe newcomers.
You will arrive with a set of expectations about how you'll do life here based on what you've done in the past plus a healthy dose of fantasy self thrown in for good measure. Prepare to have those expectations torn to bits.
Portugal, like life, has its own trajectory, despite your best efforts to influence it otherwise.
I Will Never
I've listened to clients swear they will not buy anything that isn't 100% Portuguese, such is the initial fervor to buy local and support the economy. I do my best to practice this, and I admire others that do, too. But when you need a bed, or a dining table so that you don't have to eat sitting on the floor for the next 12 weeks, you will shop at IKEA. We all do. And IKEA delivers.
There are the people who swear (me) that they will never own real estate again. I knew better. I had bought and sold numerous homes in the States, even selling my last home without an agent (well done, me).
But, every time I say never, I end up doing that thing.
As it turns out, the beliefs I held about real estate in Oregon and California, while informed by experience, didn't hold true in Portugal. Nine times out of ten, it makes sense to buy a place here.
Now that doesn't mean that you can't find the perfect place and be a renter for life. That's what I wanted to do, but the quality and value of what I could purchase, versus the cost and added uncertainty of living in someone else's property that could be turned over to a family member with little notice—well, purchasing made the most sense. And most days I'm happy with that decision.
I Was Doing This, Now I'm Doing That
BUT, to get there, I had to take my hard stance of I'll never buy again and sheepishly declare that yes, I’m buying an apartment. Except for a day or two to adjust to my new position, it wasn’t a big deal for me, but that's because I know I'm likely to change my mind in the presence of new or updated information. This isn’t being fickle or wishy-washy; it’s rational to consider new information and make changes, as needed.
Those who don't flex with shifting realities, who refuse to budge on their coveted ideals, will find that living abroad is more challenging than it needs to be—and it's challenging enough already without adding to it.
Being willing to change your mind, or at least entertain new ideas, will open doors to new possibilities, whether in a new country, an established relationship, or wherever life will take you next.
As time goes on, our needs and wants change. Sometimes this change is barely perceptible as it’s happening, but when we come out the other side after the transition is complete, we realize we are different. And this difference, this lack of knowing who we are or who we've just become, can seem sudden and feel destabilizing.
But I've Always Loved (Insert Beloved Activity, Here)
Recently, a friend acknowledged that a favorite hobby, an activity that defined part of her identity, is not that appealing anymore, and she's coming to terms with what that means. Often, this shift creates a rift within the framework on which we build our conception of who we are—and when that piece of the scaffolding falls away, it seems there's less structure to hold ourselves together.
When we let outdated parts of ourselves fall away, new interests and ways of being can take the place of the old.
So what do you do when you get an inkling that your lifelong love of Tuvan throat singing is now just a distant tune? When the sport or pursuit that made up part of your sense of self—and it's been the way others see you, too—is now it's just a scratchy wool turtleneck that you can't wait to take off?
Even when the interest or the desire within us has changed, it's hard to let go of the identity and belief system that got us there. As a result, we often feel sad and nostalgic about the passing of these stages that ripple through us. But if we can pry loose the white-knuckled grip on our lives just a little, we can start to see these changes as massive opportunities for re-invention. And I love re-invention.
Some things I thought were true, or I'd always believed about myself (or life in general), that I no longer do:
I love spending all day in museums
I love big cities
I love camping
Monogamy is the only way to do intimate relationships
I hate parties
Okay, well, that last one is still true, and honestly, I don't see that one changing any time soon.
Did that one about monogamy scare you? I bet it did unless you also understand there are as many ways to be in relationship with other humans as there are people.
If you find yourself bristling about other people's changes after you "thought you knew them," then that's a good time to examine your own assumptions about what you believe and why.
I love examining my belief system and tearing it apart (this newsletter is called life: examined, after all). Anything that holds up to scrutiny can stay; anything that doesn't pass the is this true for me now test has to go.
So give it a try—it's fun—and you don't have to abandon anything, but at least explore why you believe what you do, especially if it's something you've held onto for years.
Thank you Jeanne, Jose, Linda, Bill, Cynthia, Amelia, Craig, Roxanne, Aviva, and anonymous someones for your support.
You, too, can support life: examined, this weekly letter, through Buy Me a Coffee. Absolutely no obligation, but if you do I appreciate it!