I’m sitting across from my mother-in-law as we are about to tuck into our Chick-Fil-A burger. We’ve just been for our 40-week pregnancy check-up on Baby Nwabueze and the visit to Chick-Fil-A after every check-up has become a ritual for my wife and I. We would typically drive to the hospital, talk to the nurses, get weighed and listen to Baby Nwabueze’s heart beat, then head over to Chick-Fil-A to tuck into our spicy chicken burger, fries and coke (Dr Pepper for me) and every type of sauce they have to offer. Today is the first time my mother-in-law is accompanying us, and as we tuck into our food, she asks how I’m doing and if I’m enjoying the new experience of being in the USA. I take a bite of my burger and reply that I’m finding Americans refreshingly direct and expressive and that it is bringing out my Nigerian side. My British side is probably offended by the loudness and direct expression, but I like how Americans let you know if they are pissed off or if they are happy.
I go on to explain that I'm starting to understand why Nigerians prefer coming to the USA over the UK, apart from the beautiful weather the UK has to offer. Then she asks me how I am after our move from London, this makes me sit back and take stock on all that has happened since we boarded the flight at London Heathrow. I remember our first day in the Washington DC area: no furniture in the house, just our bed. We decided to head downstairs to make some tea, and discovered there was no kettle. So we did the only sensible thing and searched for a pot to boil the water. We are both flummoxed by the new American oven, and in our jetlagged state proceed to fidgeting with all the buttons in the hope that something would click and give us fire. After a while, we succeed and the flame comes alive. However, our success is short lived as we keep hearing this clicking sound. We decide to switch hobbs, which turns out to be a wrong move, as we end up snapping off the oven hob. Thirty minutes later we finally have our cup of tea, but now the whole house smells of gas. Luckily for us, my brother-in-law agrees to pop over on his way to work with his tool box. It turns out the gas was still while we were enjoying our tea. My brother-in-law manages to turn off the gas with a pair of pliers. Wow, definitely not the start we were expecting to our U.S. adventure, death by gas explosion on our first morning.
This thought probably came to mind to remind me how challenging the transition has been, where something as simple as making a cup of tea in the morning nearly became a life or death situation. Before leaving the UK, I knew I was going to have to step out of my comfort zone, but there is a difference between knowing something and actually doing it. Frustration levels have been sky high, the little things you have become accustomed to taking for granted now have to be relearned--a humbling experience. A big one for me has been learning to drive on the other side of the road, a challenge I have to continually battle with, rewiring my brain. Something as simple as going to the supermarket to pick up groceries has become a challenge requiring patience and taxing my already battered and depleted reserves for logical thinking. Everything now requires conscious effort and willpower. It forces you to engage yourself fully, even in menial tasks.
Within 24 hours of the Chick-Fil-A outing, my wife goes into labor, which triggers more reflection. I replay all the times I’ve had my ass handed to me. There is a long list of times when I have been frustrated by little things, like the electric sockets not working in the bathroom, the ongoing charade at the Maryland Vehicle Association in trying to transfer my UK license to a Maryland license, and having to fix our washing machine twice. On several occasions, I came close to nearly losing the will to live. So it comes as no shock when a routine medical check-up reveals my blood pressure is high. I nearly burst out laughing when the Dr asks me if there is anything that could be causing me stress. Please, Dr stop it, it hurts, don’t make me laugh anymore.
What I have discovered that has really helped when I find myself losing the will to live, is humour. This has definitely helped my relationships with my wife, brother-in law and his wife. The ability to be willing to laugh at yourself and the situation makes all the difference. And having your ass handed to you several times a day creates the perfect conditions for you to learn to humble yourself and take stock of what you have and be grateful for all of it. This mix of humour, humility and gratitude has helped keep my morale up. And as I look forward, I have the excitement and energy to dive back in with my motto of “balls deep”: don’t just dip your toes in, dive in there and make sure you are balls deep.
I’ve decided to set new goals for the next 6 months and use mental skills targets as runway lights for the next chapter of my journey, guiding me on a path to landing. If the last 4 months are anything to go by, I'm sure it will be emotional. I saw this quote on social media (by Sarah Robb O’Hagan) and it captures how I feel at the moment.
Trust the wait
Embrace the uncertainty
Enjoy the beauty of becoming
When nothing is certain
Anything is possible
How do you thrive when you’re out of your comfort zone?