The expat life starts with a yes that feels like leaping into an abyss.
Yes. I will sign that multi-year contract, person I met yesterday. I’m pretty sure I would love to work for you.
Yes. I will sell or give away most of my earthly possessions.
Yes. I will move ALONE to a new country where pretty much everything is unknown and trust that I’ll figure it out.
The first lesson I learned from my expat life: learn to say yes.
Saying yes is not a comfortable thing. Often, it includes some level of risk and responsibility. However, saying yes is the way we humans break new ground. It’s how we find new capacities within ourselves. It’s how we continue to expand.
My first expat yes was at the Search Associates international teaching job fair in San Francisco, February 2012. After three sleepless days of interviews and research, I signed a two year contract to teach at Korea International School. I had never been to Asia before. It was a breathtaking moment that changed my life forever.
That big ol’ yes was followed by so many more yesses. Some comfy-cozy, others super uncomfortable.
Yes, I will move around the world with only two suitcases of stuff. Yes, I will attempt to start learning Korean (a language so difficult, I often teared up during my lessons from sheer frustration). Yes, I will break out of my introvert shell and go out when I’d typically stay in. Yes, I will connect with others, letting down my walls more quickly than I would at home, because I left all my support peeps back in Colorado.
Yes, I will explore (almost) fearlessly. Yes, I will communicate through body language and pointing in public (because I have to). Yes, I will
break bend the rules, even when my rule-following, first-child, perfectionist brain wails, “nooooooooooooo, don’t doooo it!”
I will say yes to travel. I will say yes to staycations. I will say yes to getting uncomfortable.
I will say yes to negotiating a deal to coach CrossFit part time to mostly Korean clients in a Korean gym in exchange for a membership, even though it terrifies me. Then, continue to force myself to say yes every time I walked through the doors.
I will say yes to learning how to speak up, lead, and be brave. Yes to caring less and less about what others think about me and more and more about if I’m at peace with my actions. Yes to accepting the good and the ugly parts of me that are opened up and splayed out clear as day through the expat experience.
Yes to continue to work on myself, even when I feel like giving up. Yes to knowing that the dark days come and go. Yes to realizing that here, I’ve had my sparkliest highs and my blackest lows. Yes to the conclusion that expat life is fu%&ing hard, but intensely beautiful.
Now, I say yes to sharing my personal experiences with others because I believe the more we talk to each other about the hard sh%& in life, the better we get at it and the less alone we feel. Now, I say yes to sharing what works for me, because maybe it will work for you, too.
My expat life has taught me to say yes, when it’s easy and when it feels impossible.
It has taught me that leaping into an abyss is not a bad thing.
In fact, it might be the choice that changes everything.