Since being home in the US, I have been inundated with questions about my life as an ex-pat. When am I coming back? Why do I like it? What's my favorite thing? These are challenging questions for me to answer...partially because I don't really have an answer. I don't know when I am coming back, and I find it impossible to put into words what makes my experience so fulfilling and enjoyable. The other tricky bit is discerning between the people who are genuinely interested vs the ones who can't understand why I'd ever leave. My answer to these questions tend to sound like this: "Because I like it there" or "It's an interesting experience."
Maybe this is because I really don't know to explain my existence over in Asia. I know that I am learning something new and great by being over there, but I'm not exactly sure what it is. Some could say I'm learning how to be independent, or living outside of my comfort zone. Yet, each time I try and think about what it is I'm getting out of my experience as an ex-pat my answer changes. I am meeting interesting people and traveling to exciting places, yes, without a doubt. I am gaining a sort of inner confidence and sense of self that I never had before as well. I've come much more accustomed to seeing the world from different angles than I had before but none of these really pinpoint what it is that I am "getting out of" my ex-patriate lifestyle.
The best way I could describe it is that I have learned that there is no such thing as normal, or the "right path." That even though it's drilled into our heads by society, or our families or whatever that we grow up, get good grades, behave with propriety, go to a good college and move out of our house, get a good job, build a career, become financially independent, fall in love, get married, have children etc that it doesn't necessarily have to be that way. Everyone is different and sometimes we have to dare to dream, dare to take a walk on the wild side, to search for our passion.
I can't tell you the countless hours I spent stressing that I 'didn't know what i wanted." I had no clue while I was living in NYC, and I still don't. However, since moving to Asia, I've stopped worrying about it. I watch as my friends get promoted, married, or engaged and I no longer feel the panic I once felt. I realize that success is not defined by these acts of "following the path" but more so, how we feel about ourselves. How we feel we are living our lives. I feel more successful teaching in Asia than I ever did as a PR exec living in NYC...not because it's a life goal necessarily, but because I feel happy, content and in control of my own destiny. I don't feel like I am doing something just because I am supposed to be.
People think it's weird that I gave up a great life here. Some have tried to understand by telling me that they read "Eat.Pray.Love" and thought of me. I heard this statement enough that i decided to pick up the book and I guess I sort of see it. On paper, the author had it all, but something was missing and she went searching for it. Now I can tell you that other than that basic theme, our stories aren't very similar.
Living in Asia has changed my perspective on so many things. I still love NYC and the life I have/had here, but I need, for my own sanity and personal growth to keep wandering down this other "path" to acheive what it is that I want out of life (whwich, by the way i'm still unsure of.)I don't want to have it all figured out yet, because to tell you the truth I like being blown away by all the new things I discover and learn about myself. It sounds cheesy and extremely generic to say all this, but I can't tell you how true it is, and how inspired I've felt since I made the decision to break away from the mold and do something against the grain.
Some may feel that I "gave up" a career in PR, fantastic friends, and a serious relationship, but don't feel like I've lost anything...I can get another PR job, my friends still love me, I'm pretty sure I'll love again and for the first time I'm not freaking out about the unknown. I feel like I am exactly where I am supposed to be.