An Expat Story
My expat story is often, by my friends and family, viewed to be an exotic adventure, filled with excitement, glamour, and ease. Ideas of jet-set adventures around the world cultivate images of life with no boundaries and a constant flow of various pleasures.
As an expat and trailing spouse, I have had the privilege to travel the world, learn new languages, and yes, have many adventures… seven international moves in 15 years were exciting, to say the least...
But it has also meant applying for new jobs every time we moved, finding myself alone A LOT, and needing to find the energy to recreate my social network over and over. My life was defined by bouncing from one thing to the next, disconnected and going through the motions, always finding happiness in my work and activities but fleeting satisfaction.
I frequently found myself feeling somewhere along the way I had lost myself, and that my expat life lacked substance and purpose.
Being an Expat in Paris
When we moved to Paris in 2015, I had a six-month-old on my hip and shortly thereafter was pregnant with my second child. I often found myself exhausted, beaten down by an unforgiving city, and without many opportunities to take time for myself, listen to my needs, and pursue self-care; a story many moms can relate to expat or not.
I was often a hot mess.
Two children under two in a new city, a small apartment, and all the trials with young motherhood brought about life questions I hadn’t yet contemplated.
It wasn’t having children I questioned, as this was always something I wanted. It wasn’t the man I chose to marry, as marrying him was one of my better life choices. And it wasn’t even the expat life that I doubted, despite the huge challenges that came with this lifestyle.
It was a question of self. I realized for the first time that I didn’t know who I was anymore and that I had lost myself somewhere along the way. Through all the moves, social and environmental changes, job changes, and motherhood, things that used to define me and my life no longer did - they hadn’t for a long time. I was too busy - and more to the point - too oblivious to notice until it whacked me in the face.
Up to that point, my expat story didn’t involve figuring out how to bring more satisfaction and fulfillment into my life rather than seeking the temporary emotion of happiness. I hadn’t worked on building self-awareness or accepting the shades of light and dark within me. As I feel many people are, I was often just going through the motions of life with moments of joy and pain but little reflection on either.
The missing piece: ikigai
Learning about the ikigai philosophy was an eye-opener that I had needed for a long time. A new and refreshing way to look at the world and myself in it. Nuanced and intricate without being too philosophical to feel attainable, this philosophy changed my expat experience entirely.
Using the ikigai philosophy, I uncovered, acknowledged, and understood myself in ways that I previously hadn’t. With seriousness and complexity, I contemplated what I was living for. I focused on what brought me joy and satisfaction. And I prioritized how I could align with my values to build an expat life defined by fulfillment and purpose.
It makes me smile when I think about how my expat story may have been different during those first expat years had I understood my ikigai better. I don’t have regret or sadness for the opportunities missed or the pain of the past. I rather have peace and a deep sense of gratitude for what I now know and what that allows me to feel and achieve in my life.
My tools for personal development
As I move forward in my personal development journey, I have my work in mindfulness to keep me grounded, my yoga to bring together body and mind with increasing awareness, and the tools of ikigai to help keep me honest, motivated, and aware.
I am comfortable knowing that when I experience life challenges, my understanding and pursuit of ikigai will help me overcome them.
And I have excitement and gratitude knowing that this is a journey with no end, as I now move with more ease and grace through the seasons of this beautiful life.
These tools are available to you, too. I can help you uncover your ikigai and build greater self-awareness, so you too can decide how you show up in the world.
Do you want to know more about how having ikigai can help you create and navigate your expat story?
Set up your free discovery call today find out!