Essay link: The Band Aid Rip
A recent blog entry post has been circling the interwebs and I have seen it forwarded on and on through my different sets of expat circles and communities. The author speaks about how the expat relocation must be dealt with like a band-aid removal. Whether it be fast and quick or slow and careful, it is always painful. After reading it through a few times something felt unsettling about it. I had to ask, but where is the wound?
What was this bandaid covering? What wound did she acquire in the first place that required her to put a friendship bandage over herself?
I pondered this thought for quite sometime over lunch today and think I’ve dug deep enough into my iPad screen as well as myself. I feel for Ms. Catherine and her pains but I see an inherent issue in expatica too. The wound is within ourselves and our own insecurity.
“…I’ve become just as hardened. I’ve closed ranks – not to be elitist, simply to self protect. I find I now align myself primarily with “lifers”- expats who are here for the long, long haul. Hypocrisy, irony… the lines are too blurred for me to distinguish between them…”
I champion her ability to open-up and admit these inner feelings but I challenge current or future expat women to straighten their posture, stay positive and rise above this rationale.
Having lived in four different places in the past 4 years I too know the psychological toll that constantly picking up and moving with your children can do to a gal. But I challenge her and everyone who sympathized with her essay to think less inwardly and think more outwardly towards “them”; “them” being the others.
Not inviting people into your circle simply due to fear of being hurt totally goes against the reason we ladies picked up and decided to do this whole expat adventure anyway! Any woman who has been expated will be able to tell you about her first chapter upon arrival. Getting thrown back into high school and being the girl with new braces and a bad haircut has never been so painful. Exposed and terrified the tendency is to revert to survival mode and join a pack. Seek out the alphas and scrounge for acceptance. Alphas tend to be the ones who have been around the longest but also tend to be the most hardened as she freely admits. I’m here to say, don’t do that.
Don’t reject or keep potential new friends at arms length because you don’t know what is in it for you. When is the last time you talked to someone you didn’t know? Someone of a different mother tongue, someone of a different religion, someone with a different skin tone? Today? Yesterday? or “um….”? When is the last time you invited a new child over for a play date instead of the same rotation of children? You know those new boys and girls in the class this year? They want to get into a circle too, they want to go on trips and be invited to birthday parties just as desperately as you did as soon as you arrived.
Exclusivity breeds nothing but pain. Rejecting new people or new environments based on fear or shoe style shows our children that the openness and welcoming garble we keep throwing at them should be done only as you say, not as you do. Go ahead, invite someone different on a lunch date. See the woman standing in the corner at school pick up taping away at her phone, do you know her name or have you already decided she is not worth your time. When you open yourself, your circle, your Facebook front, your clique and your children to inclusivity you will find the pain of leaving isn’t as painful for you or for them. There were no wounds to put a bandaid over in the first place. Leaving is hard, we can all agree with that. However, the next step is there and ready for you, if you enter it while looking backwards you may miss out on some really great people…some great people who may simply choose to wear flip flops.