Why is there a wound?

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.

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One Response to Why is there a wound?

  1. Jamie Whitaker says:

    That’s a great response, and well thought out. I’m not sure I can technically call myself an “expat”, but I did live abroad with my husband for nearly four years in Germany, near Belgium and the Netherlands. I remember feeling more or less ostracized upon my arrival for the same reasons you mentioned above. It really hurt. I went on a long weekend trip with some new friends, and an old friend, and none of the new friends bothered to converse with me, or look me in the eye for that matter. I was so saddened. The other women there were on their way out and I guess they didn’t want to make yet another new friend only to have to say goodbye. I’m not sure. I would call their behavior very rude.

    I’m also a seasoned military wife and I move around a lot too. Women can be just as petty at 35 as at 15.

    A few months before I left I was very busy with moving preparations, and last minute trips that I didn’t socialize much. I didn’t recognize many of the new Americans that came where I was, and I didn’t really have the time or heart to strike up a conversation, let alone a friendship. However, I did always try to be friendly, and offer helpful, uplifting advice.

    I recall making the choice not to make any new friends six months before we moved simply because the goodbyes were heart wrenching. I can see how I limited opportunities for friendship. On the other hand, I felt like the time I had left with the friends there was quickly passing by and I wanted to bottle up as much of it as possible. We all loved each other and where we lived (minus the ridiculous EU bureaucracy and rules). During my four years there, I made wonderful friends from all over Europe who genuinely enriched my life and helped me change my perspective on a few issues. I am grateful for that.

    Now that I am back in the USA, I’m back in the same town where we left. Some of the same friends that were in Germany with us are here too. I have lived here for about seven months, and haven’t made any new friends. I still get together with the same gals I had coffee with in Germany here. I personally don’t feel like I need any new friends. It isn’t that I’m not open to it, I just haven’t actively sought out new friends.

    The wounds I incurred were self inflicted. That’s okay. I don’t have any regrets.

    Enjoy what time you have left.

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