Transitions: Tribes and chaos

South Africa, 28th January 2019

Dear reader, this is another post in my series about Transitions and part of my Monday Musings.


I have written before about finding my tribe as part of my move to the UK.

At this moment, the idea of tribe pops up in a different guise.
I am leaving my professional tribe and moving onto embracing another existing tribe, my UK family.

In the bigger scheme of things, what I am doing is really exciting and I am looking forward to it. But in the meantime, it is the day-to-day stuff that I have to get through to get to the exciting part. And that day-to-day stuff is not easy.


In the past, I may have just shut myself off, detached emotionally and kept busy and organised. In fact, that is exactly what I would’ve done. I would’ve shoved the emotions down to the deepest part of my being and erected an impenetrable wall. I would’ve been the Ice Queen.

But this time, I want to be different. I have deliberately chosen to be aware of it all – the good and the bad; the easy and the hard; the joy and the pain.  I am trying to be present through it all and mindful of everything that is happening to me and those around me.


Old and new tribes

My professional tribe is made up of colleagues in my immediate project. Then it expands to the people I work with in the Education Faculty at the University. The broader tribe is the maths education community I have been a part of for a number of years, both here and internationally.

My imminent departure from this tribe brings with it deep emotions: sadness, loss and disconnection. I feel like an outsider as I detach myself from the work I have been doing for 8 years. I feel discombobulated as I listen to colleagues talking of writing papers for various conferences and I know that I am not going or contributing. There is a feeling of loss, of missing out. A colleague said: “it’s understandable to feel that, but it’s also ok to step out for a while. You can re-join the community at any time if you want to.”

When I was saying goodbye to another colleague, I mentioned how hard it is to say goodbye. He said I must just be myself through the process. If I want to cry, I must cry. I think he was trying to say that I shouldn’t worry about being professional and keeping myself together, I must be human and vulnerable.

I have mattered in this tribe. I get feedback of work being well-done and having made a contribution to something bigger than myself. This too is a kind of loss. A loss of recognition and acknowledgement. As much as I’d like to think I can self-validate, there is some satisfaction to be gained from being acknowledged.

Then there are my friends. I have made some really good friends here. I cannot bear to even write about how I feel leaving them behind. I sense that the week ahead will be tearful and emotional. I can already feel a lump in my throat and my heart.

I have been away from my UK family for a very long time, and I’ve been a virtual part of that tribe, from a distance. Over the next few months, I will re-join the tribe as a ‘physical’ member and find my place again. What will my contribution be? What role will I take on?


And the chaos?

Outwardly, there is no chaos.
I seem calm.
But if you were to look inside me, you would find the opposite of calm.

The emotions are swirling around, close to the surface.
They add to the anxiety already in my stomach.
The emotions and anxiety get more prominent as the day of departure rushes to greet me.
Emotionally there is a ton of chaos.

There is chaos in shaking up my status quo, leaving behind all the sticky responsibilities and obligations of my life here, leaving behind parts of me that will not be of use for a while.
There is chaos in the sense of reinventing myself, starting afresh.
Chaos in tying up all the loose ends of my life – finances, possessions, responsibilities and obligations. Things that don’t often come to the neat end that I want them to. Life is not like that.

I must live with the chaos for 5 more days. Be fully present.
Then I will sleep for a week!

Debbie blog sign off 2019

This post is part of my Transitions series – all about my major life move back to the UK from South Africa.

I'd love to know your thoughts on this post, please leave me a comment

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