Monday, 10 September 2012

Lost and Found's Tips and Tricks for Re-Integration

Last week, I posted an article on the pangs of a little thing called reverse culture shock. It was a powerfully relevant topic for me (and still is) as I attempt to find my place in the big city of Toronto (my hometown) after spending four months in east Jesus nowhere. Of course, it isn’t my first time transporting myself back and forth across the country like some transient vagabond, and although reverse culture shock is a thing that happens no matter how many times you do this, I’ve built a nice toolbox of what are referred to as coping mechanisms to make it plenty easier.

This is me on a bus ride through hell.
This week, I’d like to share what I’ve learned from said experiences and talk about what exactly I do when faced with such daunting transitions. Consider this the solutions part of the subject, and hopefully I can generalize it enough to keep it accessible to the masses. Here are my six best Tips and Tricks for Re-integration:

1) Be prepared

It’s the goddamn Scout’s motto, for Christ’s sake. Any adult who was forced to wear a handkerchief tied to the collar of a starched grey uniform complete with the world’s most fashion-forward sash can recite these two imminently powerful words without giving a moment’s thought, because if there’s one awesome thing we learned from Scouts (and there were many), it’d be that if you can’t prepare yourself for the challenges of tomorrow, you’ll end up losing harder than those three South-Asian badminton teams who each wanted to suck on purpose so badly they ended up being kicked out of the Olympics. Also, that sentence was so incredibly run-on I am doing nothing to fix it. 

Scouts: The new Vogue?

The same theory used by Scouts applies here; start by realistically envisioning what coming home will be like. What challenges will you face? Who can you rely on for support? What resources will you have directly at hand?  Start doing this well before departure. The earlier, the better; you’ll find that mentally preparing yourself for coming home will lead to even more constructive solutions (see below).

2) Find the Familiar

It’s easy to get lost in places that are confusing and different. This may be the case after returning to your home-city/town/place after travelling for a bit. What may be the difference between ‘keeping it together’ and ‘total insanity’ is your ability to latch onto things that remind you of your incredible experience while you were away. Finding these connections may be difficult, but they will provide you with happy thoughts if you do it correctly. Some suggestions: get involved in a community-based organization that is affiliated with where you went or host your own seminar/presentation on the most important aspects of your experience. If people around you can better understand what you are missing, they can in turn better support you while you try to get back into the swing of things at home.

3) Surround Yourself with Good People

Pictured: Someone NOT to be friends with
Further to what I just stated above, none of this will work unless you are friends with the right people. Douchebags aren’t included in this list. This might mean that some people who were your friends before you left have to be ‘cut from the team’, but in the long term you are actually just making it easier on yourself by staying connected to those who really know you, or who are at least interested in getting to know the you that has just spent hella-long times in a very faraway place.

Your support system is only as strong as you make it, and it’s time to enact some important executive decisions. Hold your ground, Little Foot, and you’ll grow into a strong dinosaur. 

Kids who were born after '98 totally won't get that reference.

4) Use Your Humor

They say ‘a smile means the same in every language’, except Braille. Maybe I made that last part up, but if fully blind people can’t read this anyway, does that make it offensive?

If a tree falls in the woods.......?

Also, don't be friends with those that do the 'duck face'.
My humor could be described as often borderline distasteful, but without it I’d be in trouble. Humor is an amazing tool when it comes to staying mentally stable, especially in times of intense change. Learn how to make yourself laugh and you’ll know a great way to instantly flip your mood; find a way to laugh at yourself and it works even better. Self-deprecation helps you to understand that the things you may be getting upset over are actually quite arbitrary. From this you will realize that much of what is bothering you as you attempt to re-integrate is actually not worth ruminating over in the first place. See how it works? The collateral effects of using your humor (especially on yourself) are wonderful, so turn that frown upside down, or at least semi-circle duck-faced sausage-like, then go look in the mirror and complete the process.

5) Keep Busy!

In the wise words of my Grandma: “busy hands are happy hands”. It’s as if she’s Yoda.....As in ‘YO DA BEST, GRANDMA!’

Part of your ‘being prepared’ phase should include organizing activities for yourself to partake in when you get back. This will allow you to stay occupied and (hopefully) become actively connected to your community. Much of what causes reverse culture shock manifests itself when you are idle for a long period of time. Keeping a regular schedule and consistency in your plans can and will mitigate the more serious side effects.

6) Tell Your Story

Ahhhhh sheeeit, it's story time bitches!
Remember story time, that magical hour in grade school when your teacher would wisp you away to mystical lands and epic journeys complete with plot lines probably written by authors who were on a serious lifelong acid trip? Sure you do, because it was the most awesome part of school. We happen to be highly-evolved creatures with an immense capacity for imagination and narrative creativity. But telling a story is an art, which means you can suck at it pretty badly at it if you don’t know how to incorporate a bit of creativity.

Chances are that reciting your travel log verbatim to your friends and family won’t quite capture an audience of interested followers (trust me on this), and you’re going to have to find a way to tell your story without making the recipients want to dunk their heads into a bath of poison. The best part is that once you find that perfect balance of storytelling meets entertainment, you’ve got a reasonable outlet to share those experiences to people who actually want to hear them. Congratulations! You’ve achieved rockstar re-integrated status!

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