On Being a Beginner

Being a perfectionist can really suck. I’m trying to let that go. As a result, this week I’ve been bad at so many things,* that I decided one more couldn’t hurt—


Besides feeling like a crappy writer and not doing anything to fix it, I stopped with the blog back in September for another reason: I realized the experiences I have depend on the people who invite me into their lives. And when I wrote about my experiences, it felt like I was patronizing them and myself. I talked about my life like I was writing for National Geographic, and that’s not what I want at all.

In reality, I get to live life in a community here for a whole year. I decided instead of writing day-to-day, I needed to pause, step back, and look at how the experience as a whole is changing me. Now I feel like I belong here. This is my life, and I have things to say!

So for the first Big Idea, let’s address the difficulties of adapting to a new culture and entirely new people.

My time in the Czech Republic has made me see my life as if there are two Whitneys who just can’t seem to fit together quite right. When I am giving everything I can give to the people around me here, I may seem selfish back home (i.e…Mailing Christmas presents three weeks too late). And when I spend too much time thinking about home and the people I love there, I feel like I am letting down my people here. Not to mention the unavoidable change in lifestyle, like relying on public transportation, having a new job, living in student dorms, trying to learn the local language, relying on help for literally everything (even going to the pharmacy, or as it is called here, the chemist), and starting with nothing but a single suitcase.

There’s this cultural adjustment curve most expats have heard of. Your time adjusting to a new culture goes something like this:

So yeah, this was tough. I went AWOL from writing, because this took all my willpower. With that said…

My time in the Czech Republic has been selfish yet giving, stressful yet inspiring, and challenging yet rewarding. I wouldn’t change it even if I could. I learned the key is letting down your ego, and just being bad at things sometimes.

Without further ado, welcome back.


*The things I’m bad at: skiing, ice skating, and not getting my bike stolen.

Hanka, a math teacher at school, took me ice skating!

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