Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The emotions of being a foreigner in a foreign country

I've previously experienced something similar to this before.  See, in early 2008 I decided to quit my job in Texas, put all of my belongings in storage, pack up my car and dog, and head west for....well, I'm not quite sure where I was going or what I was looking for.  But that experience taught me one of the most valuable lessons I've ever learned.  Follow your heart.

In late 2007, I'd been working at my company in Texas for close to 5 years, and was feeling quite restless.    I didn't understand the feeling at the time, but looking back there was a battle happening between my head and my heart.  I now understand all the lies that our heads can tell us; shaping our thoughts, creating our insecurities, and ultimately suffocating our lives with fear.  But alas, I somehow mustered the courage to leave behind my comfort zone.  Some little known facts about my road trip...1) It took me three days longer to leave than most people thought.  I said I was leaving, and then got scared, so I camped out at Frank's apartment for 3 extra days before I finally got on the road.  2) I needed to get gas less than 45 minutes from home.  It took me about 30 minutes to leave the gas station after filling up the tank.  It took me that long to decide whether to continue west or turn back and just go home.  3 months later I was renting an apartment in Colorado for what would turn out to be one of the best decisions of my life.  If you're interested, you can see a little bit about my journey here.

About this time last year the same feelings of restlessness were starting to resurface.  Only this time I could identify it and understand that some difficult decisions were coming.  But don't you think that some of the hardest decisions we have to make lead to some of the best results we can experience?  Once again, I had to ignore the fear and anxiety of being in a completely new place, only this time half-way across the world in a country where I don't know the language or culture.  It's been a steep learning curve, but thanks to my previous experience I think I've handled it like a champ.

That doesn't mean I haven't had my moments of self-doubt and second guessing.  It's pretty well known that expats can experience a kind of euphoria when they first arrive in their new country.  I'd been told and read that the early months were like a 'honeymoon' phase.  Then sometime after that you can experience a low period.  Things that were exciting and new become frustrating and confusing.  I can attest to the fact that this is an inevitable part of moving abroad.  I now officially feel like the vacation is over, and this is now my home.  I'm frustrated that I can't speak the language.  I'm annoyed that I can't find simple things like ibuprofen, taco seasoning, and deli meats like I could back home.  I'm irritated that I can't understand the culture fully.

Although the last few weeks have been a struggle for me emotionally, I can take great comfort in the fact that I know I am here for a reason.  I know that I will learn an incredible amount about myself and a new country and culture.  I fully understand that this will be a passing phase and that I will look back on it and smile in the near future.  I can find solace in knowing that I am exactly where I'm supposed to be.  Because I followed my heart...