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Left Brain, Right Brain: A Relocation Story
A weird thing happened to me in the last week or two. My left brain (the one that has made it possible for me to move 63,000 people to all corners of the world with a cool head and precise planning) stepped aside to let my right brain have center stage for awhile.
You see, shortly after joining Worldwide ERC® as its new CEO, I had scheduled July 8 as the date of my relocation from Seattle, Washington to Washington, D.C. So in the days leading up to our west-to-east-coast flight, my husband Greg and our daughter Lauren and I got to experience the transitions I’ve set in motion as a workforce mobility professional thousands of times before.
My left brain was practically on auto-pilot. It’s a blessing to have years of relocation experience when you reach the day that you’re the transferee. Figure out the household goods and storage issues? No problem. Find a school for my daughter? Piece of cake. Withstand the ice-cold realization of a depressed market on the departure side and a higher cost of living at the destination? Reluctant but knowledgeable acceptance. I can manage logistics all day long. But I wasn’t primed for some of the feelings that popped up, without warning, at the most startling times.
Some people talk about the need to recreate their familiar network of local providers when they move – finding an organic grocery store, or a doctor they trust, or a hairdresser who won’t cut their bangs too short. But I found it was the other things that knocked the wind out of me. I was overwhelmed with the sheer amount of “stuff” I had to sift through and make decisions about. (I needed another Peggy Smith to join me – one to be the relocation administrator, and one to be the transferee.) And I was stunned by the feelings that came up about my house...our house.
For years, Greg and I considered each and every aspect of the house we were finally able to build (and took a photo practically every time a nail was pounded). This was our dream, and every room had been designed, every detail had been selected joyfully and with great care. Even so, I knew I was ready for this move – I love my new job, and I had my checklist revved up, and my mobility blood was pumping. Until I remembered our first Christmas in the home we were packing up; and how our cat Mau and Mr. Bojangles, our dog, didn’t have a clue what was in store for them in the next few days; and how Lauren would escape to her special place in the house – her walk-in closet - when she was upset or just wanted to think.
My daughter, wise beyond her 11 years, has been incredibly supportive of this new chapter in her mom’s career, and true to the characteristics associated with the redhead she is, she boldly and fearlessly threw in her vote for this family adventure across the country. And while I knew this move would not be easy for her, nothing prepared me for the pain of seeing her bravery crumple on the day most of our belongings were moved out of the home we were leaving, and the true impact of leaving her friends hit with full force.
My left brain kept calmly assessing the situation, solving problems, working through tasks that would get us to the east coast. But my right brain was having a field day.
I know I am not alone in this experience. Two of our industry colleagues with whom I spoke recently have their own left brain/right brain experiences to share. Linda Howard, Prudential California/Nevada Realty, was moving locally from one home to another, and held a yard sale after her house was under contract. When her buyer showed up and wanted to purchase the old refrigerator in her garage (that she didn’t even want anymore) she found herself thinking, with rising resentment, “She’s already got my house – why should she have my extra refrigerator, too?” And during a move from Los Angeles to Sonoma, Jill Silvas, Pacific Union International, decided to take a frozen container of chicken broth from her old home to her new house... and propped it up on the back seat for the trip. “I knew it didn’t make any sense at the time, but it was something I’d made in a home I loved, and it represented part of our whole experience in L.A.,” said Jill. “But I was able to disengage in short order – as I drove, and the broth defrosted, it smelled awful! That was the end of my emotional attachment!” Both of these contemporaries are savvy professionals with years of industry experience. They’ve been on the business end of a relocation, and they know the score. But all the experience in the world can’t make us ready for the soft underbelly of a move - sometimes it’s just about old refrigerators and frozen broth.
I think it was the illustrious actress Bette Davis who said “old age isn’t for sissies.” Well, Ms. Davis, that’s probably true - and neither is workforce mobility. One thing that keeps running through my mind (both sides of it!) is how much better we would be at our work if each of us were to relocate at least one time in our careers. We can learn a lot from sitting on the other side of the desk in our industry. And, occasionally, letting our right side prevail.


Left Brain, Right Brain

Hi Peggy!  Great story about the emotional side of relocating to a new city.  As I read your post I couldn't help but think of my own 11-year old daughter and how moving across the country would affect her.  Then I remembered your post "Open and Connected."  Remind her of the opportunities provided to her through the use of technology.  While it's not quite the same, she can remain in touch with her friends through Facebook, Twitter, Skype, etc.  These social media tools have got to make the emotional turmoil a little easier on our transferring families.  While it doesn't help the bond with your "home" it can certainly help in keeping the bond with those you've left behind.  Best of luck to you and your family as you make this transition.  Worldwide ERC is lucky to have you! 
Janet Olkowski at 7/12/2010 10:47 AM

Left Brain, Right Brain

Great article and very sound advise.  Seeing the other side can generally provide much insight in to what we sometimes take for granted.

Hope the move is going well!
Al Blumenberg at 7/12/2010 11:18 AM

Staying connected during a transition

You are so right about the connectedness that’s possible today. Lauren’s totally tapped in to the technology that keeps her in touch with her friends and relatives - in fact, one of the blogs I’ll be writing soon will reference our family Skyping each other while we’re all in the same house! And while no one has yet figured out how to get the warmth of a hug or a handshake in a virtual environment, some of the tools we have available offer the next best thing. Thanks so much for your comments – we feel lucky to have Worldwide ERC as well!

Peggy Smith at 7/12/2010 11:25 AM

It's in a box!!

So true!  I remember having no sympathy whatsoever when a transferee would say, "I don't know where it is, it's in a box somewhere with my other move items."  Prior to experiencing a move myself (which included three kids and of course the animals), I would think to myself, what do they mean it's in a box and they can't find it???   What, no labeled boxes that you can easily assess and find the exact file folder containing your previous home closing documents?  How unorganized can you possibly be?   After moving and experiencing it first hand I have alot more empathy towards the transferee (or assignee) and their particular dilemma whatever that situation might be. 

Peggy, we're all so glad you're there leading ERC & look forward to many years of ongoing accomplishments with your leadership! 

All the best with your move, happy unpacking & look forward to seeing you soon.

Sue Z.
Susan Zandarski at 7/12/2010 11:58 AM

Left Brain Right Brain

Terrific blog on your experience.  Having transferred twice your points are right on.  For us it was the emotions of seing the truck pull away knowing all your memories are sealed in a 52' van.  It's not the "stuff" so much, but what it represents to each family can't be "left brained". Its different for each move, something we preach in the industry but sometimes lose sight, every move is unique.
Steven Rogers at 7/12/2010 12:00 PM

Moving Abroad - Don't Forget to Pack Your Brain

As my article in the June edition of the ERC magazine -  Mobility revealed,  'Moving Abroad - Don't Forget to Pack Your Brain -  all of us in the relocation industry need to be reminded that in addition to accepting the stages of the transition and re-assessing expectations, expatriate or executive coaching is another means of enabling the transition to be a bit easier thus reducing the stress for all involved.

Welcome to the East Coast Peggy - the added value you are bringing to all of us and to your new role as CEO of Worldwide ERC® is exciting.

Best of luck,
Maureen Rabotin, GMS, CGEC
Maureen Rabotin at 7/12/2010 1:07 PM

My right brain thanks you!

Thank you, everyone, for the kindred experiences and sentiments, and your very welcoming comments!

Peggy Smith at 7/13/2010 2:35 PM

Welcome to DC

Pam, I want to welcome you to the DC area.  As a life long resident, I personally feel it is a great place to live.  I am assuming you will be in N. VA, but the whole area is filled with opportunities.  I hope your moves goes well.   I hope to meet you at some of the area network events.

Janice Young at 7/26/2010 12:48 PM

So true.

As someone who works for a company that helps people move their pets, I can calmly and easily explain how we smoothly handle the door-to-door relocation of all types of pets, anywhere in the world. 
But when it came time for me to move Chubby Charles, my little tuft of a white furry cat, from one part of Austin to another, I worried about her the entire car ride!
It's great for your perspective to go through this process every so often so you can truly feel the emotions that take a hold of you when it comes time to move.  There's a psychological aspect to moving that goes well beyond the checklists and heavy lifting.
Thanks for this insightful post!

Rachel Farris
Rachel Farris at 9/21/2010 11:59 AM

Thanks, Janice and Rachel!

Janice, I think I missed your note in July, but thank you for your well wishes! We are settling in nicely and sampling some of the area's special places.

And Rachel, thanks for your thoughts. We're fortunate to have these life lessons along the way that help us do our jobs better.


Peggy Smith at 9/21/2010 12:06 PM

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