Riding the Struggle Bus

Things have been quiet here on the blog. That’s because since I tweeted about falling off my bike in front of a random Swiss stranger in early September, I haven’t been in an incredibly great place.

I’ve also been afraid to write too much about it here because I had listed this as an online presence for a couple of jobs I applied and interviewed for. As those aren’t going anywhere and I actually need to write some of these things out, here we are.

First, a note about my job interviews. I first had a phone interview for a temporary Online Content Manager position. The position would have lasted for several months, as it was covering someone’s maternity leave and the mother-to-be wasn’t sure how much time she was going to take off. After the phone interview, they asked for some writing samples, which I sent them. There were some very drawn-out email exchanges in which I became more and more discouraged, certain that I had not gotten the job. The position was filled in early October and I just received an email earlier this week confirming that they had chosen someone else.

When I asked for feedback as to what I could improve for future applications, I was told they chose someone with over 8 years of online content management experience and a background in journalism.

On the one hand, yeah, I can’t compete with that. I think I could have done the job well, but I don’t have that amount of experience in this field.

On the other hand, holy moly. People with that type of experience are getting temp work? How am I ever going to get a job?

I also had an interview for a year-long internship position. That was 3 weeks ago today. I sent a thank you note right away and followed up with an email a week after my interview. I haven’t heard anything back. I assume they went with someone else.

ETA: Late this morning I received an email confirming that they’re not moving forward with my application for the internship. They’re going to keep my resume on file for future positions and I have asked for feedback on my application and interviews to see what improvements I can make.

I didn’t expect to be handed a job in Switzerland, but I also didn’t expect the process to be this hard and this discouraging. Most applications yield zero response. Those that do yield a response, it’s usually from a do-not-reply email address, so I can’t get feedback. I feel like I’m running head-first into a brick wall.

That all took a back seat in mid-September, however, we received a letter from the Kindes- und Erwachsendenschutzbehörde (which I will call the KESB from now on for obvious reasons). This is the “Childhood and Adult Protection Authority,” per Google Translate; I referred to them as Swiss Social Services. The complaint, as translated from German, was that our daughter cries too much. They scheduled a meeting with us for the end of September.

The transition to Switzerland hasn’t been incredibly easy for Genevieve or me. We are the ones who were most disrupted from our lives in Peoria. In addition, G is three. She is intelligent, very verbal, strong-willed, and learning to push boundaries. She does throw tantrums sometimes. She does cry. We don’t give her what she wants all the time. Sometimes she works herself up so much that literally the only thing that will snap her out of it is yelling her name.

I won’t deny that she cries. But “too much”? How much is too much?

We were told that there would be someone who spoke English at our meeting, and there was. There was also someone who apparently could understand a lot of what we were saying, but he only spoke German in front of us. The meeting was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. And to top it off, it ended with Genevieve throwing a tantrum over a stuffed animal they had in the waiting room. She wanted us to buy it for her, which wasn’t possible, so she wanted to bring it home anyway, which no, because that’s stealing, so Andy ultimately had to carry her out of the building crying and yelling.

They said we could expect our letter with the outcome of the meeting in two weeks.

That was the worst two weeks of my life.

My anxiety was through the roof. Genevieve was picking up on that, I’m sure, and her behavior was spiraling downwards quickly. I was afraid to let her cry or yell about anything. I was afraid to try to stop her. I felt trapped and helpless.

When the 14th day arrived, I watched for the mailman like a hawk. When I checked the mail, there was nothing from the KESB. Andy called them, however, and they said that they were dismissing the case. Since our case “wasn’t urgent,” they hadn’t mailed out the letter right away.

We won’t get into all of my feelings on that particular way to deal with the situation. Suffice it to say, I wasn’t a fan of that chosen plan of action.

However, the sense of relief I felt immediately was immense. As I said to a friend in an email, I knew the KESB situation had been weighing on me, but I had no real idea of how much.

For a few days, I felt absolutely buoyant. The day after Andy called the KESB, I got the call scheduling my internship interview. I felt on top of the world.

Post-interview, however, things have settled back down. I wouldn’t say I’m as low as I was when we were waiting for the KESB verdict, but I’m still definitely feeling low.

Expat life is unexpectedly hard in a million ways that you can’t (or at least we didn’t) prepare for. This expat life, the one where our house in the States wouldn’t sell and I can’t find a job and the cost of living can be daunting at times… it’s wearing me down.

And while I’m so looking forward to our visitors from the States at the end of November and then going to the States for almost 3 weeks in December, I worry about what it’s going to do for my moral when we return. Will it refresh me, give me added resolve when I’m struggling in Switzerland? Or will it just make everything here seem that much harder?

I know every expat’s experience is his or her own. But I think that they, in general, tend to get painted in a rosy light. I know that’s how we viewed it before we got here. While I hate that our brush with the KESB ever happened, while it makes me feel awful that it’s so hard for me to find a job, I ultimately decided to write about this because if other people are having similar struggles, I want them to know they’re not alone.

There are people in your life who want to support you through the tough times, if you’ll let them. There are people who have been through something similar, or something else just as hard, who will try to help you however they can, even if it’s just lending you a shoulder to lean on or letting you talk through it.

I have people who are here for me, although it’s sometimes hard for me to let them in. I’m trying to be better about it, though.

12 thoughts on “Riding the Struggle Bus

  1. I hear you, I’ve been though more or less the same a decade and a half ago in Spain. It will get better. My kids were three and four at the time, they were having a hard time, too. But they got better as well. I know this isn’t much help for now, but still… Big hug!

  2. I had a fellowship in France some years ago. While I told my husband that he was “lucky” to come along, freelance, and explore without pressure, he did not always feel that way. We were not in a major city, and we had no car. The train system was on strike for months. We walked everywhere. He was often stuck, especially in winter, in our small studio apartment. This was all before we had kids. I feel for your struggles with G. The brightest spot was the friendships we formed, which have lasted to this day. With a great job, life was fun and easier for me. He published great freelance pieces, but he didn’t feel the same satisfaction I felt. Like you, he investigated a lot of ideas, such as buying a car, that didn’t pan out. I feel for you! Hang in there. Hugs!

    • Yes, exactly. I feel like I should feel lucky, but that hasn’t been my experience so far. At least not entirely. I think a huge part of it is just that Swiss culture is so much different than US culture.

      This would be an entirely different situation without a child. Much less stressful, I think. Still not ideal (on the lack of work front), but definitely a completely different scenario.

  3. I’m sorry to hear that things are still so tough. I really hope time with your family is refreshing for you and it’s easy to go back after your visit to the States. You’re really strong, Liz ❤️

    • I feel kind of lame because really, things have improved. My mind just isn’t keeping up with the pace of changes in the real world. I’m hoping that by writing this and having it out in the open, I can really move past it.

      I’m hopeful that our time home will ultimately be a positive experience overall, both with our friends and fam and once we get back to Switzerland.


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