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Looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I’m not entirely sure what has been lacking in my life for the past week or so (it feels more like several years), but I can hazard a guess. It’s not really a question of a physiological need, because I’m not starving, dying of thirst, cold or anything else. What about the next level, safety? This seems much more likely, since it includes (among other things): security of body, resources, property and health. But still I wonder if this is where the problem lies, because none of these things have really been missing (health in this case shouldn’t include mental well-being, since that’s what defines many of the other needs in the first place). Still, not having a solid foundation to build anything upon (and I think this counts as security of… well, something), is a major shortage and one which will make itself felt very quickly.

What about love and belonging, the third level? I might be considered to live in a social gap, in between giving up the security of my social network in Sweden and building a new in Taiwan (or indeed regaining what I left here three months ago, including Vanessa). This can’t be the source of the problem either, because I know from experience that it takes longer than a couple days for something like that to appear, but it might make the problems already mention a lot worse. So, onwards, towards the top.

Instead of treating the two final steps of esteem and self-actualisation as one, I’m going to handle them together, mostly because I think they are hard to distinguish. I think most people in the West never even come close to jeopardising the lower levels of the pyramid except for very brief periods of time, so we’ve grown used to constantly circling near the top. Subjectively, I think I derive the most satisfaction from the top level, but objectively, I’m of course reliant on the lower ones even though I seldom think about it. Arriving in a new country immediately chops of most of the top to layers and probably makes a solid dent in the middle one as well. This is what’s been bugging me these days.

It’s easy to think that this siuation should be somewhat similar to being on holiday and finding out that the hotel one had booked doesn’t exist and it’s difficult to find a new one. That’s a very big mistake. I’ve been in that situation before and sure, it’s awkward, but it’s nothing compared to what I’ve just lived through (and still am, in some ways). Since I feel a lot more stable now, I’m prepared to propose a few tentative reflections on what just happened.

The first thing I’ve learnt is that I’m truly dependent on people I’m close to in Sweden. It would be very hard to build such a network of friends somewhere else, not only depending on language problems (it would be utterly impossible in Taiwan), but on the simple fact that I seem to enjoy long-lasting and profound friendships. I enjoy chatting and meeting with new people as well, no doubt about that, but that’s no substitute for the real thing.

The second thing I’ve learnt is that I’m rendered completely incapable of rational thought when I have no fixed point to use as reference. This has never happened before, and I regard myself as a person who’s fairly good at making good decisions, even if the have to be done on the spot. Not so this time. I’ve made a lot of mistakes, feeling that I should have done something else than I actually did more time that feeling that I’m satisfied with what I have. That’s also a new feeling, I’m usually wholly confident that I make the correct decisions in most cases.

I’m not sure what this means in the long run, but it means that I’m not going to put myself in a similar position again, ever. If I’m going somewhere new, I will make sure I prepare better (for instance by deciding on a temporary solution that might not be good, but is reliable; in this case I could have applied for a room in the dormitory, just to make sure I got that point of reference. It might of course be moved, but I need to know where it’s going before it’s shift. Taking a step and finding that nothing is there when I shift my weight is not something I want to experience again.

In ending this introspective post, I want to invite other to dicsuss. Have you ever encountered a situation like this? What did you feel? How does that compare to what I’ve been writing the past couple of days? This is something new for me and perhaps I can understand it better if I hear what other people have to say, so even if you don’t have any personal experienc to share, I’d be more than happy to hear what you have to say about mine.

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