Starting Over, With Nothing

by Patricia Selbert • Member { View Profile }

How do you begin again from nothing, when circumstances leave you somewhere unexpected with no apparent resources or assistance? Some people only fear this thought, using it as motivation to succeed. Others have faced it head on, as I have as an immigrant, leaving behind all the things I loved. When I was thirteen, my mother, my sister and I left our home and family in Curacao, a small island in the Caribbean, for a chance at a new future in the US. After driving all the way across the vast span of the US, we arrived in California, aiming for Hollywood… and landed there, without knowing a soul. My first American home was the car we drove across the country in.I found myself away from everything and everyone I’d ever known and loved. I didn’t understand why my mother thought moving to the USA was a blessing—it took many years for me to understand.

We didn’t stay homeless long. My mother found work and a small apartment, and we were on our way to realizing the American dream. All these year later, I still have the added perspective of hindsight to see how those years allowed for a completely new future, a future I would not have been able to dream in my wildest dreams had I stayed in Curacao. Sometimes a crisis leads to great breakthroughs… depending on how you look at it.  Here’s what I’ve learned about starting over:

Take stock

When confronted by huge loss or lack, a strong strategy is to take stock of what resources you do have, including those that seem obvious or irrelevant. Consider your health, skills, talents, and most of all, what you are passionate about and have enthusiasm for. Even if you find yourself somewhere new and don’t know a single soul around you, consider every person you see as a possible resource waiting to be met.

Even at our most vulnerable, we have a choice to either lament what happened or reassess the situation and set an intention to do what is needed. Perhaps when we are in that position, humbled by circumstance, we actually have a greater capacity to cut straight to the basics and focus on the essential.

I spoke three languages when I landed in the US: Dutch, Spanish, and Papiamentu. These were resources, but at first my lack of English overrode them. I had to keep focusing on the fact that I had the capacity to be multilingual and pushed myself to learn English, despite my dyslexia. Persistence was another major resource; although invisible, it has been my most valuable one.

Adjust your perspective

At first it may seem like things couldn’t possibly get any worse. But what if the situation is all in the way you view it? When perceived as “terrible,” it usually is so. But what if that terrible situation was viewed as something else entirely, and called by another name? If it were considered to be a "powerful lesson that could have us reach out and help others later," it could even be seen as a blessing.

Sometimes, a new view on things opens up amazing resources that were previously invisible. No matter what our circumstances, it’s our perspective about them that dictates how we relate to them, what actions we take, and even the outcome. Shift the perspective and an entirely new set possibilities will reveal themselves, which in turn, will provide a whole new assortment of actions that could be taken. It’s all about seeing the possibilities.

To practice this idea, take any difficult situation and list what you’re still grateful for. Finding gratitude in moments of distress is difficult but essential. It reestablishes balance and is empowering. Stay in the present.  Have an intention. Intention is the most empowering tool available. Check in with yourself to see if your actions are  supporting your intentions. Then watch how the circumstances of your life lines up with that intention.

Write it down

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