Looking Back and Looking Forward after Major Change

  • One year ago yesterday, I got on a plane and flew away from my comfort zone.
  • One year ago late tonight, I arrived in a land that I had repeatedly expressed a less than zero desire to live in.  (And yes, I came to live here.)
  • One year ago tomorrow, I viewed our new home and met new neighbors for the first time.

So today I’m taking my own advice and pausing:

  • To look back at this journey
  • To evaluate what I hoped would happen and compare it to what did happen
  • To evaluate what I’ve learned
  • And think about what’s next

When we announced our decision I shared the following goals:

1.  I was determined to Turn an Unwanted CHANGE into an Adventure.   

Yes it is possible to do that!!!!  It’s been a great year!

2.  We wanted to experience life outside of our home country.

We are living and vacationing in places we never imagined we would be.  (And having fun!)

Amsterdam     Petra

3.  I’d hoped for the opportunity to live in a place that is as culturally diverse as Sesame Street and imagined that living on a compound with people from all over the world would be a lot like that. 

My favorite part of the cultural diversity here, is that in spite of our different languages, accents, colors, and faiths, it is still possible to find a lot in common.  As women, as couples, as children, in interests, in life experiences…

…And when we are open to it, the things that make us different become great opportunities to learn and grow.

4.  I wondered if we would come away with a better understanding of what it is like to be on the receiving end of racism. 

Although it is more visible here, and painful to observe – I haven’t been on an obvious receiving end of its sting…

Yes – I believe it still exists in my home country but there it is undercover – so it is easier to be in denial about its existence.

Here people are treated as less because of their heritage and it’s not a secret.

  • Depending on your race you can move to the front of a line or be forced further back in line.
  • Wages are significantly higher or lower because of your race first and your knowledge or experience second.

The invisible woman5.  I worried about feeling invisible.  

In my year here, real invisibility has only happened one time. 

  • My husband and I were picked up by a driver to go to the airport.
  • The driver asked my husband if we were picking up anyone else.
  • My husband indicated that we were not.
  • The driver indicated that he was supposed to pick up two people.
  • (Note that both my husband and I were in the car!) 
  • So my husband pointed at me and informed the driver that I was the other person. 

In seconds my brain raced from shock, to a huge temptation to be angry, to deciding that this was a story to tell and a sharable moment – a minute later I posted on Facebook that “My Cloak of Invisibility” really works!

6.  I wanted to study the impact of extreme change at a deeper level.

I’m still studying, still listening, still experiencing….

7.  I expected to laugh, to cry, to examine urban legends, to face fear, to experience things we’ve never imagined and to grow like crazy.

We have!

The biggest learning’s from this year:

  1. To walk with greater faith and less sight.
  2. To be more transparent, more vulnerable, to seek and accept help.
  3. I have a much greater appreciation for the vision, wisdom and sacrifice of those that created the uncommon democracy I grew up in.

As I look ahead to next year my goals stay the same:

  • I’m still determined to have an adventure in this sandbox.
  • I still want to know and understand my neighbors and the world better.
  • I still want to have my beliefs and my thinking challenged.
  • I am ready to learn and grow like crazy!

With a thankful heart and a lot of anticipation, I walk into year two with my eyes, ears, heart, and mind open…  Here we go!



President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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4 thoughts on “Looking Back and Looking Forward after Major Change

  1. Nice one Chery! I can’t wait to see you in person again. Come visit soon. The blog is good, in person is the best. Know that we think of you often and pray for you and your hubby!

  2. Chery,

    When you told me about this adventure nearly 14 months ago, my hope for you was that you would be able to glean wonderful experiences despite the many constraints placed upon you. It appears you have indeed! What is so amazing is that even though your larger environment is far less “free” than what you are used to, you are nonetheless able to experience amazing diversity on “Sesame Street.” I enjoy your stories and look forward to many more!