Expat Lessons

Expat Lessons

I still can’t fully believe that I spent over 1 year of my life living in a foreign country and did not die from the experience!  I knew going into it that I would change, but I had no clue how much.  I remember sifting through all the places I could potentially move to and having this adrenaline that surged through my veins about the unknown.  Before the decision was made on Budapest, I remember the initial feeling of needing to get out.  It overcame me in such an intense way back in 2015.  Funny thing is, on paper, I was doing quite well.  I worked in entertainment at a modeling agency where I met an invaluable friend for life in the owner and worked as a freelance acting coach, but it did not fulfill me.  I felt something hollow inside.  As terrible as it may sound, I was too comfortable.  I craved challenge and new surroundings.  At that point I knew that I had to move again.  Maybe it was out of fear of settling.  Actually, it was definitely out of fear of settling!  I simply did not crave the same type of stability that most around me longed for.  I thought, Well, what’s the end point?  What’s the goal?  I wasn’t convinced that if I settled down and hunted for a husband I would be fulfilled spiritually.  That’s what I wanted… I wanted my cup to runneth over in spiritual delight!  I wanted each day to feel unique unto itself.  I did not see a reason why it couldn’t be.  And that, my friend, was the beginning of what has led me hear writing this.  Although, I am not in Budapest anymore and I am saving for my next endeavor, I thought it would be beneficial for me to reflect on what I have learned about myself and about the world by playing the expat role for the time that I did.  Here are the main points I’ve awoken to…

I’m A Minority

Ok, let’s get past the obvious ways that I fall into the definition of minority.   If you look at the above photo you might be able to guess one or two- that’s not what I am talking about. I think you are smart enough to predict I am talking about something more profound then skin deep. Let’s get into the actual meaning of the word in this explanation.  According to Webster’s one of the definitions of minority is the smaller in number of two groups constituting a whole.  I learned that deciding to pack up and leave everything set me apart from most people I knew and most people they knew.  It was pretty extreme to sell most of my belongings, including my car, and venture out to a country I had never been before.  I learned a lot about the people around me when I actually did it.  Most people would mock me or not take me as seriously until it got closer to the departure date.  Then people would say how cool it was or how they wish they could do something similar.  It gave me perspective on myself and my decisions.  I guess I’ve always been the type of person that doesn’t need a whole lot of encouragement to do something.  It made me feel good…but I want to express how I realize now that I am a minority, after I have lived as an expat.  Coming back to the US a lot of things were understandably the same like the stores, food, and conversations I would eavesdrop on, but there were some remarkable differences to the community I had left behind that reassured me that indeed, time had passed.  Friends were getting married, having children, breaking up with partners, getting promoted, turning the key to their new suburban homes, and generally going forward in their lives either down a positive or negative path.  I   could not find one person I knew that could relate to the story that was unfolding in my life.  When I got back, I was a hot topic for awhile.  Everyone wanted to see me and talk about what I had just done.  Almost as if it was a phase I had went through and they were fascinated by the stunt I pulled.  I know they meant well in their curiosity, but it dawned on me shortly after returning that this was not a phase.  I just started my journey.  I found a determination to continue travel and growth no matter the costs.  I knew that I was a minority in that I did not want to settle down and was not afraid to do it again.  I wasn’t satisfied.  Being an expat has taught me that my view on life and how it can be lived will always be askew from that of my peers.  I’ve come to an acceptance of my quirkiness and know that I am serving those that feel like their dreams are too far fetched.  Being an expat has taught me that being a minority is a responsibility to teach others about things that they wouldn’t have guessed they would harbor interest toward.

People Want To Relate

It’s all about mind set.  If you go to a new place and expect everyone to act exactly like the people in your home town, you are setting yourself up for misery.  People want to relate and communicate with others, but some lack the tools to do so.  I’ve found that if you make an effort to meet people half way, you both will get much farther than predicted.  I lived in Hungary.  The language of this country is difficult, trust me.  And I am not perfect, I spent many days sulking and upset because I could not communicate the way I wanted to.  Although this was true, my attitude played a part in my discontent.  There were times that I nestled in my anger and instead of think outside of myself, I would act as a hermit.  This was not conducive for growth.  In retrospect, I did evolve from this negative behavior, but at the cost of wasted time.  Being an expat taught me that our mindset is so incredibly important as we move through our days on earth.  The way we frame our reality and how we react to that image dramatically effects our quality of life.  This was a lesson that I needed to learn.  For so long, I tried to base my inner happiness off of my external environment and this proved a recipe for disaster. I could not expect anything other then myself to elicit joy within.  I think this is the all-too-common behavior that media uses to sell products with.  Have this item, live in this house, be with this person, drive this car, and you will be happy. The truth is so opposite it makes my stomach flip. We attract externally whatever we are feeling internally.  So, if I felt like I was misunderstood in Hungary, I would attract that.

Now, after all is said and done, I find this truth incomparably helpful in my progression forward in life. I don’t necessarily want to say it is like the law of attraction, but it kinda is.  I know now that if I earnestly believe that others are good deep down and want to find connection, I will find more of that- and I have. I have learned to take control of my mind and to dismiss my pessimism as soon as it rears its ugly head.  It’s believing that life is meant to be enjoyable, people are most likely for you and not against you, and those that seem drastically different from you only seem that way because you have not talked to them long enough.

I’m Way Stronger Then I Thought

All it took for me to get a grip on this point was living half way across the world with only myself to turn to.  No big deal.  Above all, this is the lesson I am the most grateful for.  It gives me such confidence to know that I can handle things that are thrown my way with a certain finesse that I wasn’t able to before just because of living in such alternative environments.  It has definitely been a coming of age experience.  I’m delighted to know that if I put my mind to something, I can make it happen.  It sounds simple, but this is imperative to understand about yourself.  Realizing this made it feel as if the world was in my hands and that anything and everything I wished for would come to pass.  The inner fortitude that I found in my expat journey will serve me for eternity.  You never really know how smart you can be or how resourceful you are until you are locked out of your new apartment in a foreign country with no phone the night you arrive…  Anyway, my point is that it can be disheartening to find many people (women in particular) doubt their own strength and perseverance when it comes to their passions in life.  Taking the leap into the unknown is necessary in order to reach the life you lust for.  Of course my leap and your leap will look different, but we are both jumping.  Being an expat has taught me that what I find scary isn’t scary at all and if I act in the face of fear I will always be pleased with the results.  In fact, if I am scared of something I know now that it is something I am meant to do and that I am strong enough to do it.  Living abroad awakened this core within me that is immovable.  The continuous heartbeat that remains no matter the storms, trials, or tribulations that surround it.  No matter what, I got this.  The world wants you to think otherwise, but don’t fall for it.  We are all so unique and vital in our own ways that to deny this beauty would be a crime.  This whole experience reminds me of some of the essays I read while studying with my private acting coach when I was 17.  He made me read all of Ralph Waldo Emerson‘s essays and one quote pops out at me from Self Reliance  “Envy is ignorance,
Imitation is Suicide.”   
If we fail to honor what makes us strong despite its unfamiliarity, we fail to live fully and authentically.  We rob ourselves of true satisfaction and are doomed to navigate through life with contempt.   Even though I am still discovering who I am with each day that passes, I have met the women that I have always been.  She’s pretty cool, you’d like her 😉

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