a letter to my pre-expat self

every month, Belinda hosts a link-up called the Expat Q&A where expats answer questions about... being expats. the questions for this month were: What advice would you give to your pre-expat self? and How do you reconcile what you thought life would be like in your new home and it is in actuality? this is my first time joining in, and I took a less traditional approach to writing my answers. I decided to write a letter to my pre-expat self. the girl I was then really didn't know what she was getting into... but I like to think it worked out ok.


dear me:

you're moving abroad. to Taiwan, of all places. [bet you didn't see that one coming.] right now you are riding the high of endless possibilities. hold on to that feeling. put it in a box where you can take it out and savor it again from time to time, because you're going to need it. there will come a time when your adventure won't seem so wondrous and exciting. there will be a time when you question... everything. there will be days when you want to give up and break down and admit defeat by moving back home. 

but you won't do it.

you'll stick it out through culture shock and bouts of depression, because you're nothing if not stubbon. and because there will be days that make all the trouble more than worth it. the things you will see, the places you will go, the world you will discover will amaze you. with everything you know stripped away, you will finally be forced to learn about yourself. you'll find how strong you really are. how brave. 

you'll learn new things about your Husband too. things that ten years of knowing each other in a safe and normal environment never unearthed. how alike you are. how much you can rely on each other for support... because you will be all the other has. it certainly won't be easy, but it will bond you tighter together than anything else.

life won't be what you expect.

you really don't know much of anything about life in Asia. half of the foods you assumed were made of rice and are gluten free... are not. glutinous western food will be everywhere to tempt you, and you will have to make a conscious choice not to eat it. you will have to be wary of tiny shrimp, too. they will be everywhere in your food, hiding in places you would never think to look. [stock up on bendryl - epipens aren't available in Taiwan.]

not everything will be cheap just because it's not America. make sure you check price tags carefully and do the math to convert the currency. otherwise you will end up paying $100 US for a clothes drying rack. [though, in your defense, it is a very nice drying rack.] don't waste your money at the import store either. go to the local markets for your fruits + veggies, and Costco for your cheese + tortilla chips. also... eat as much baby spinach, ranch dressing, and bacon as you can get before leaving the states. strangely enough, those are the three foods you will miss most. they will have "bacon" in Taiwan, but you'll soon discover that it is [as with most other Western foods] close, but not quite.

don't bother buying that $300 Rosetta Stone program, because you won't use it. you aren't going to need it because getting around Taiwan comfortably requires little to no knowledge of Mandarin Chinese. and because a few weeks into life in Taiwan you're going to realize that you actually enjoy not having to overhear other people's conversations. DO buy the expensive scooter helmets. they are going to save your noggin, though unfortunately not your knee.

everything is going to change.

the way you look at the world will be altered. your experiences will make you both appreciative and embarrassed of your nationality. you'll lose the need to plan everything down to the details, and the tendency to panic when things go wrong. [because - I hate to tell you this - things will go wrong.] you'll gain some perspective about the things and people in your life who truly matter. and once you realize this, you'll change too.

you're going to become a whole new person. one who non-ironically sits in starbucks with your laptop... because you're going to write a book. one who stops trying to blend in... because people will stare anyway. one who does what you love and embraces what makes you happy... because you'll finally realize that choosing to do so is an option.

some people will think you are crazy. and it might be true that no one gives up their job and friends and entire life to move far far away without being at least a little crazy. but the people who love you will support you, even if they don't understand. 

but most of all, don't let it become normal. just as you can live a wild and interesting life anywhere you are if you do it right, you can live a predictable and boring one anywhere if you do it wrong. if you can be brave enough to embrace a little madness, you can have one hell of an adventure.

you're going to be uncomfortable - embrace it. you're going to feel fear - lean into it. that's where the growth happens. trust me. or really... trust yourself.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...