4 Mar 2024
Think before you throw out the old
Expat Support Health Mental health

Think before you throw out the old

This time of the year, at the turning of the light and with the advent of a new year, we might raise a glass and say, “out with the old, in with the new”.  Leaving the old behind is certainly something that global nomads are particularly good at. The last few months have given me an opportunity to really consider how I leave behind the old and how to embrace the new.

I am a second-generation global nomad and I certainly experience the rootlessness that comes with multiple childhood relocations. This creates a flexibility around the concept of ‘home’ that makes us both adventurous and displaced. Until now, I approached country moves like casting off an old skin to make way for the new: all done here, moving on to greener pastures. When my lovely handläggare at the Swedish immigration office asked if my return to Sweden was permanent or temporary, it was tempting to answer, ‘permanent – for now.’ But I bit my tongue and ticked the correct box!

All my belongings remain in storage in Holland while I wait for the bank to sanction my money transfer. But not my mother’s ancient Fiddle-leaf fig tree. It’s a fifty-year-old green global nomad, first cared for and nurtured by my mum in several different countries, and later by me. It has seen me grow from childhood to grandparenthood! In all the months of planning I thought about all the different ways I might bring this 2-meter giant with me. But in the end, it just seemed easier to let it go. Not dumping it by the roadside of course but leaving it with a friend. And this friend, channelling something of my maternal horticulturist, suggested I take cuttings and create continuation. And so I am now the proud owner of a vase in my hotel room with the beginnings of two new Fiddle-leaf fig trees. And that’s been a great metaphor for this different way of transitioning into my new life.

One week ‘back’ in Sweden, and how do I feel? Frustrated by my bank, delighted by the immigration office, and wearing wet socks because I packed my running shoes instead of my snow boots. Coming back is like meeting up with an ex-boyfriend whose positive attributes still delight and whose less attractive traits are familiar and don’t need to be resolved. My Dutch bank frustrates me too, the constant rain in Holland almost had me grow fins and wearing a wetsuit! When I worked with expats in Holland, I heard the very same complaints about the Dutch that I used to make about the Swedes. I have come to understand that much our host country grumbles are about the dynamic between ‘incomers’ and ‘natives’. But that’s for another blog.

I think I have made a better beginning this time round, because I allowed myself to make a good ending. Not throwing the old out to make way for the new. Not sneaking off-stage to avoid all those interminable and emotional goodbyes. This time I had at least three farewell parties, one of them a total surprise! Rather than demonising the ‘old’ to make embracing ‘the new’ easier, I hold both in equally perfect and imperfect regard. Because when you demonise the one, you automatically must idealise the other. And because nothing and no one is perfect, this inevitably leads to disappointment.

While I’m feeling deeply thankful for the new ‘everyday’ connection with my family here, I also miss the everyday I had with the friends and family back in Holland. There is a phrase in the Swedish language that describes this ability to psychologically hold two opposite emotions without splitting. It is både och, which roughly translates to ‘both and’. It gives permission to feel both joy and sadness in the same breath. It gives permission to be moving to Sweden both filled with love and affection for the people I love in Holland and excitement to take up a new role in my family. It is the healthiest antidote for those of us brought up on either/or!!

And finally, inspired by the cuttings, I also ditch my parents’ heavy oak salon table which always took up more room than it provided. But I ask a carpenter to use its base to create legs for a small children’s table that will be our generational gift to my soon to be born granddaughter. Because life is not linear, it is circular. Like the rings in a tree the old is part of the new, it can offer a secure base. The trick is neither to drag the old around with us, nor to try and dump it wholesale. With care, we can select, dissect, and bring forward that which is valuable and useful. Be it old oak tables and Fiddle-leaf fig trees, or the psychological archive we carry within us!

So as you raise your glasses on New Year’s Eve, or cross yet another border, start a new life, a new relationship, or a new job, take time to explore the old you leave behind to see what was of value. To see what can be carried forward. Even if that which was valuable was the pain that taught you something different. And then allow the new to be grafted onto the old. Savour its lessons and love. Sift out the pearls of wisdom and the abundance of love and bring them with you on your journey into whatever new and exciting phase life has in store for you.


Lysanne Sizoo, international Mental Health specialist

New clients welcome from 8th January, online and in-person in Stockholm.

Mental Health International

With over two decades of experience, Lysanne Sizoo specializes in assisting expatriates, international professionals, and global nomads facing mental health challenges. Her professional journey has taken her to the United Kingdom, Sweden, New Zealand, and the Netherlands. While her practice is set to relocate to Stockholm by the end of 2024, she continues to serve a diverse clientele through online consultations.

Living away from one’s native country comes with its unique set of psychological hurdles, alongside the everyday ups and downs of life. This holds true for global nomads, cross-cultural adults, and children alike.

In the upcoming months, Lysanne will share her insights through blog articles and by addressing readers’ concerns. She will also chronicle her personal journey as she returns to Sweden after a decade in her home country.

If you have specific topics or issues that you’d like Lysanne to explore in her articles, please reach out via the contact form on this website or directly through her personal website. Rest assured, your privacy and confidentiality will be upheld.

Lysanne Sizoo

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