Lesson #24: You are NOT crazy, you just live abroad.
You’re not crazy, I promise, you just live abroad. Life as an expat often times leaves me feeling like I’ve lost it. It’s quite common that the very things that bring me the most joy equally make me want to pack up and head home. On a good day I appreciate everything that this life throws my way, but there are plenty of moments where my positivity runs dry and my patience is fried.
The result? Sometimes I feel like a lunatic, as conflicting thoughts infiltrate my mind in a mere matter of seconds, I wonder is this a sign that at the mere age of 23 I’m ready for the loony bin?
The answer is of course no, a life abroad is a life of extremes, and learning to let each thought pass through, and then pass on, is simply a rule of the road. Much like life back home strong emotions will often hit us, take us hostage, and then leave us just as quickly. It is our job to ride them out without giving them much weight. Nothing makes this point as salient as living abroad. So to all my expat friends (and I admit I am saying this to myself as well) you are not crazy- you simply live abroad, where situations build you up just as quickly as they knock you down.
Case in point, some of the wondrously conflicting feelings, that as an expat, most likely overwhelm you on a daily basis:
Culturally you’re going to loose it any second. One more fake smile, one more person who cuts you in line, one more prescription of antibiotics….
New perspective. New culture. New food. New personalities. You are constantly learning and growing, expanding your personal perspective and understanding of the world.
You are so tired of talking to new people. The thought of having one more “where are you going” “where are you from” convo is enough to make you bypass numerous social gatherings.
You love the fact that you are living a life where you constantly get to connect with new people. The world is full of such interesting characters and you are so happy that when traveling you get to cross paths with such a wide selection.
You miss comfort more than anything. A hug from home, a completely safe conversation with a best friend, your own couch and a deliciously worn blanket, the feeling of a squishy rug under your feet.
You are learning how to take the uncomfortable and make it work. You are constantly pushing yourself, stepping outside of the boundaries that you consider safe, and it’s become a huge point of pride for you.
You miss structure and predictability. Things that simply make sense. Transportation that is reliable. Instructions and plans that are clearly delivered. A world where you know that your clothes are clean, instead of only hoping that you bought detergent this time and not dish washing soap.
Traveling takes your idea of normal and turns it on its head, and you are so happy to live a life with no semblance of routine. You are constantly doing something new, each day brings a new adventure.
Travel tends to attract a lot of pretty over the top personalities, the kind that swallow up whatever room they enter, and insist on putting on a show. It can be downright exhausting to keep up with.
The energy that you are surrounded by on a daily basis is ridiculously inspiring. Most people you meet are courageous, hilarious, gregarious, and passionate individuals.
Language barriers have worn you down and trying to keep your cool when you order pizza and get toast slathered in ketchup instead is getting progressively difficult.
Using the little bit of the local language that you do know and being understood is one of the best feelings there is, you feel like more than a tourist, which is pretty fantastic.
You’re lonely. In one of those I miss something but I have no idea what it is kind of ways.
You have never been busier or happier for that matter. Hiking. Hopping over to a new country. Constantly meeting new friends. Going out until 5am more nights than you care to admit. Attending presentations by people who are passionate, really passionate, about some of the most unique topics, to watch them go is inspiring.
You miss bubble baths. Toilet paper. Really clean clothes. Home cooked meals. You want cheese, good beer, guacamole, cupcakes…
You have such an appreciation for the smaller things in life. Your concept of wants versus needs is becoming much more balanced than it once was.
People are constantly coming into your life slamming you with a life changing connection and then leaving just as quickly as they arrived.
You’re getting used to change. Realizing that you can’t really rely on anything with certainty except the present. Ain’t no point dwelling in the past or predicting what the future will become.
So there you have it, you’re not crazy, you just live abroad. Convinced?