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Daily Archives: April 25, 2016

Upside Down Expat

Country Commitment-Phobia

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Couple Beach Kite Flying Getaway Holiday Concept

A love story

You know the script; girl meets new country, falls in love and has a baby.

Captivated by clear skies, blissful sunshine and pristine sands, it all happens so fast that she pushes aside any niggling doubts of long-term plans. Before long she has created a new life. And while she knows deep down they’re not the perfect match, after a while she becomes deeply attached.

This is how it is for me. Because when life’s big moments present themselves seemingly suddenly, subsequent decisions are made easy. For example;

Life; Here’s a job you can apply for in Australia, want to have a crack?
Me. Yes ok!
Life: Perth’s not really suiting you here’s a job in Melbourne, fancy it?
Me: Yes please!
Life: Here you’re pregnant, want the baby?
Me: Oh wow, yes, thank you life.

So, for a long period of time, I’ve been in the fortuitous position of choosing to say ‘I do’ or ‘I don’t’ to some of life’s most fantastic opportunities. The answers to which, for me, were indisputable. Sure enough, they have been some of the most defining, direction-changing and magical moments of my life.

But the all-consuming, intoxicating and optimistic love song can only last for so long. Eventually reality sets in; long-term leases need to be signed, schools are to be selected and steps forward to be settled on. As the pressure to do these things edge closer, a feeling of panic starts to rise like the crescendo of a dramatic a cappella about to reach it’s emotionally charged finale. And so I do the only thing I can. I avoid thinking about them. I push down each note of fright and avoid singing life’s necessary lines, often until the latest possible time.

This avoidance expresses itself in everyday occurrences and conversations. If these are true for you too, they may signify that you are also a country-commitment-phobe:

– Responses to questions about your long-term life plans are littered with language like ‘we’ll see’ ‘nothing is forever’ ‘just going with the flow’ while quietly cursing the uncomfortable feelings the questioner has created.

– You ask the same above questions to every expat you meet, secretly hoping they will give a never-given-before answer and with it an entirely new perspective to your predicament.

– You can’t bring yourself to buy much needed new furniture because you would have to ship them expensively, even though you don’t have any current plans of repatriating. (apart from in your head where it’s happening later in the year; every year)

– You would like a pet but feel it would be unfair to eventually abandon it.

– You have in-depth lifestyle knowledge of almost every country in the world because you frequently fantasize about alternate countries that would be better suited, i.e. closer to home, and regularly research schools, culture and living costs.

– You come away from conversations with other parents of young children that include comments like ‘won’t be long until they’re having sleepovers’ and ‘wait until they start clubbing together’ thinking it’s probably best you reduce the amount of time you spend with these crazy future-plan-making people.

– You frequently consider and conjour up ideas of careers you could carve out that would allow you to live half the year in each country

– You have lived in the same property for years, even though you’d like to move, because you like the easy-exit feeling the month by month lease gives you.

– You refuse to book holidays more than six months in advance.

– You panic when you realise you haven’t panicked about your long-term future in a while.

Committing will set you free

The reluctance to commit to an alternate country is not uncommon. Especially when we fall in love unexpectedly. Because we convince ourselves it’s only temporary.

It’s a state of mind fuelled by a fear of finality – making a decision to be away from our families forever, closing off our options and feeling trapped or making a life-changing error of judgement we feel could leave our lives in ruin. Alternatively, we’re afraid to really go after what we want; petrified it will all go wrong.

Whatever the reason, to shy away from commitment means we actively avoid making long-term decisions. Yet not committing takes more commitment than committing. We become stuck in our head, constantly wondering what could be instead. With one foot in and the other marching around in our minds; we limit our progress by failing to fully appreciate, see and subsequently walk through all our current doors of opportunity.

So if we’re happy and don’t yet want out, we have to make a decision to commit to everything that is happening now. As in actuality, paradoxically, when we commit we set ourselves free, allowing ourselves to live our lives completely, without the burden of avoidance, ambiguity and associated anxiety.

Because the cliche ‘nothing lasts forever’ is true. So to sing a few songs badly is always better than living elements of our lives on mute. We must show up and immerse ourselves fully in every moment we produce.

And that always starts with two simple words; ‘I do’

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