being me

On Moving Home 24 Years Later

It has been three weeks since we landed in Denmark, the country of my birth that I left 24 years ago for the US. Twenty one days of an absolute whirlwind of getting our kids enrolled in school, starting my new job, moving into our temporary apartment, buying furniture, battling jet lag, doing all of the documentation for my husband’s residence application, findings doctors and dentists, buying a broken car that we didn’t think was defective , and all of the many daily things that we do as parents to ensure that our four children feel like they are settled as well. Three weeks of the craziest to-do list I have ever worked through as an adult.

And I suppose that today the dust settled just enough for me to take a moment and take it all in, to surrender not to the to-do but to the to-be and while there has been so much joy surrounding this decision to uproot our entire lives to pursue a better future, today the sadness also hit me. Not just for those I left behind, who I miss so dearly, but for the me that I left behind as well.

I am not a teacher currently, couldn’t even get an interview when I tried. I am no one’s expert. I am no one’s close friend or confidante. Beyond the scope of my family, no one relies upon me to be in their immediate vicinity and help. I am not a go-to person for those I work with or trusted yet.

Because here in Denmark I am just Pernille. Just a Dane that moved away and now came back. Not a facilitator, coach, or expert in anything.

Just Pernille who doesn’t know how to do her job and has so much to learn. No one emails to collaborate. No invitations to go teach others. No opportunities to write, to learn, to grow besides the ones I carve out for myself.

You would think it might be freeing but it turns out it is really lonely. It feels scary. It feels like I have completely left so much of what I held valuable within my identity behind and have no idea whether I will ever get to be that again. And I miss it. A lot. More than I thought.

And so I think of the students in our care who show up new to us. Who perhaps also left so much behind with the previous teachers that they had meticulously built, who had a place and a space in their previous years that we know nothing of. Who are hoping we see their value, who are hoping we see their need to be seen. To be known. To be something more than just another kid we teach. How do we create opportunities for them to be known? How do we create opportunities for them not to feel less than but instead continue to build on the momentum they had?

We start with conversations and invitations. We listen more than we speak. We offer opportunities for genuine collaboration and for them to show off what they already are and what they already can do. And we ask questions about them and we offer opportunities for them to fill in the blanks on the questions we don’t even know to ask. And we plan for it because it cannot be left to chance.

Because starting over may be freeing in so many ways but it is also exhausting, even embarrassing at times when you don’t know how to act, when your sense of self is based upon things that are no longer present.

And so we sit together in the messiness of not knowing each other and recognize the power of the moment. We slow down enough so that we remember why we came together in the first place; not just to teach, but to learn. About the world, about ourselves, about each other.

And we give ourselves grace. We embrace all of the moments and all of the emotions. And we breathe and plan and adjust and readjust and hopefully inch by inch, or should it be centimeter by centimeter, we grow into this brave new world and continue our journey. Even if it feels overwhelming right now.

I know we made the right decision for our children to move home, not just for their future, but for their now. I hope it was also the right decision for us, their adults, I hope I find a place to fit in again. I hope I can be Pernille, someone who means something more, again.

21 thoughts on “On Moving Home 24 Years Later”

  1. Blessings to you, Pernille. You’ll always be special to us, the adoring public. Take care of yourself and your family as you make this transition. Will enjoy the stories, that I’m sure will come, of this new adventure.

  2. Thank you for sharing. I have always enjoyed your writing. I wish you and your family the best in this new phase of your lives.

  3. I appreciate and can relate to your emotions. I retired two summers ago, have experienced some major life changes in the interim. The dust is settling and I, too, am trying to figure out where I fit. Wishing you and your family the best as you navigate this transition.

  4. Pernille, as you adjust to your new “you”, please remember that your influence among educators will continue for years to come. You- a single educator- saw the vision to connect people all over the world through reading and discussion. It is a gift that my students and I will never forget. You helped rejuvenate classrooms across the world. You made reading fun again. It is scary to move on. But I know you will be helping to change the face of education and we will be hearing more from you soon. God bless you on this new journey.

  5. Wow, best of luck to you! May God’s grace surround your family and fill you with peace. Take it slow, and keep your eyes open. Opportunity will come.

  6. I agree with Beth. Your influence continues whether you are there to witness or not. That is a magical thing — but because of that, it’s also hard to internalize.

    What you have given to us is real and beautiful and permanent. What you are doing now is lighting a new beautiful fire somewhere else. And it will take time before the flames start to catch, but your power is not just in how large the flames, but how wisely you arrange the original logs. I’m sending you so much love in this in-between time that’s made up of many many new things, including this new kind of quiet. You are an amazing person. xoxo

  7. Pernille, you have left yor mark on so many people between your published books and The Global Read Aloud, and your blogs! You have changed the way so many of us teach! I will never forget the blog you wrote while on an airplane. You used the analogy of the flight attendant speaking while no one was really listening , including you comparing it to a teacher on the first day of class. It really struck me to be sure to NOT be that teacher ever! I admire your courage and strength to make such a bold move for yourself, and your family. I believe that once your dust truly settles for you and your family, you will find space to do something that will touch all of the teachers and students from all over the world who have learned from you again! All the best to you as you as youfind your way through this new and exciting chapter in your life!
    Keep writing!!!

  8. What a wonderful, transparent post, Pernille. I know that you will find those connections soon in your new home and that those you come in contact with will see and feel your love for students and for learning. I wish you nothing but the best!

  9. Thank you for sharing this. ❤️ Change is incredibly difficult. As someone who has started over, time and time again, I appreciate your honesty about the loneliness that surrounds big leaps such as this. You’re incredible and in time, those around you will see your value and contributions. Just don’t forget to pause to appreciate your own greatness during this season.

    Best wishes,

  10. Your post was so vulnerable and written with the honesty that you’ve always shown. My prayers and support are with you. You will find your place and where you fit, it will just take time. I’m excited to see the doors open and the possibilities show themselves. Enjoy this time as a mom and a wife but watch out, because you have so much to offer, it’s only a matter of time before opportunities come calling.

  11. Thank you for writing from
    heart and mind in sync. I admire you, your work, and the bold move of returning to Denmark.
    Keep writing and being your true self.♥️
    You have so much to share wherever you are. It is a global world, but still you always miss what you leave behind. Lots of Love and Light in your journey for you and your family.

  12. Yes, you wrote this for yourself but it was meant to be shared. Thank you for inviting us into your loneliness . This will make a difference for me.
    Welcome home.

  13. Wow, that was very raw and very honest. I admire that! I also have no doubt you will find that “place” you are searching for again. A new place because you are a new you, a different you, as you grow and change. It’s the unknown that is so hard right now, but after getting to know you through this blog, I’m sure you will navigate it all successfully. You are a woman of purpose, collaboration, and an intent to make the world better. I can’t wait to see the amazing turns your life takes. I hope you keep sharing!

  14. Oh, Pernille, on this journey, I hope you will discover that you carry all that you are wherever you go. Even as you begin again, nothing can take away what you have experienced, what you have accomplished, or what you have shared. Perhaps you do not feel seen yet, but you remain glorious you wherever you travel and wherever you create your home. You are a treasure, undiscovered in Denmark for now, but a treasure nonetheless. Change can bring grief and loneliness, but this too shall pass. You may then find that you have grown in strength and wisdom. And you will realize that you feel like yourself again.

  15. Dear Pernille, I have read and read again your incredibly raw and honest post. I cried for you, I cried for me and l cried for others who share this grief and reverse culture shock. My husband and l returned to Australia two years ago and been in my job for 16mknths now and everything you wrote l can identify with. Even in your vulnerability you are connecting us , you identified exactly what l have been trying to understand what is going on for me. Whilst l feel so blessed to live in the most beautiful location and grateful to be home in many ways l am for the most part still vulnerable lonely, anxious for so many reasons however it is the kids that l teach my young and older teens who have reached out to me. They have been so accepting of me, kind, funny, interested in my journey and teaching OS. They make me feel a part of their lives. I love teaching and being with them and getting to know what ticks for them , to really know them and to let them know just how much l care . Because l do. I don’t know when l will find me Ginny again both as an educator and person again but l pray 🙏 for us all. You are an inspiration to me. God bless xx

    1. My goodness, Pernille, thank you so much for putting into words what I’m also feeling (albeit on a much smaller scale) as I figure out where I fit in a new school and district after 11 years at my previous one. (“Because starting over may be freeing in so many ways but it is also exhausting, even embarrassing at times when you don’t know how to act, when your sense of self is based upon things that are no longer present.”)

      Thank you for your vulnerability and your truth. 🧡

  16. Pernille,
    Even as you are struggling, you so eloquently expressed the highs and the lows of changing things in both our lives, and in our professions. As always, your words were sincere, straight from the heart. I know you will work through the challenges, embracing all the new, wonderful things you and your family will experience. You are truly stronger than you know and braver than you feel.

    You have helped me navigate challenges in the classroom too many times to count. I hope my words help lift you up.

    Wishing you much happiness, love, and adventure,
    Karen Wiley

  17. Hi Pernille,

    I don’t know if you will get this email, but I have been following you for years and feel sad that you left the career you were so passionate about. What happened?

    Best Regards, Therese Tibbits, MA, Ed specialist

  18. We didn’t leave the country, but did cross it and I feel so much of this. We came to CA and I now have three part-time jobs and it’s been seriously messy. The scramble of moving and getting settled and trying to make connections and then learning three jobs has been challenging. I wish you the best as you find your way in and through the changes. Much love to you. Thanks as always for sharing and helping others know they are not alone in struggles.

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