Last week, I visited a new friend that has been an expat for about 4 months in a country that is nothing like the one her family comes from.
When her husband accepted the position, they were promised life in a compound – a guarded and gated community with streets, and parks, and amenities that vary depending on your location.
The day before they left home to begin their expat lives, they were informed that there was a housing shortage in the area they were relocating to. (When it was conveniently too late to get their previous jobs back or easily jump back into the life they had.)
So they boarded the plane anyway. (Would you feel slightly trapped?)
And for the past four months the two of them and their young son have been sharing a two-room efficiency apartment. They have a love seat in their little kitchen and all three of them share a bedroom with their son’s toys. While their shipment of household items sits in storage.
Since their arrival they’ve been advised that it will probably take a year before they can be moved onto a compound, and presented with one alternative that gives them some immediate choices for housing but removes other benefits that they had counted on.
My friend’s situation is mild in comparison to her neighbors:
Once upon a time, I hired a fun-loving woman with great recommendations, strong experience, and impressive tenure. (True Story!)
Not long after she joined our team she began to struggle. Things that she thought would be easy to learn were harder than normal, which chewed away at her confidence, which made it even harder to learn, which ate away even more confidence. Sometimes when we spoke privately, tears flowed.
At one point she shared that in her last role she was so confident that she would put on a pink feather boa. And when she wore it – everyone knew a special announcement was going to be made. Here she wanted to be her authentic self, but was afraid…
Each time we spoke, I would remind her:
- She was grieving. (She had just left a role that she knew backwards and forwards and upside down in a place where she felt understood, appreciated and loved and moved and started a new job.)
- She really was smart, capable, fun and wanted!
- She was focusing more on her mistakes and emotions than on what she knew she could bring and that was causing her to struggle harder.
Several years ago I was in a role that was getting busier and busier. As the demands and distractions poured in I began to feel less energized and lose my focus.
And as my focus shifted, so did the focus of the entire team that I supported. With no corporate retreats in our future we needed to figure out how to refocus and recharge.
1. Create an EXPERIENCE:
- I brought some tiny matchbox cars to a meeting and asked everyone to take a car and personalize it.
- Then I gave them a bunch of foot-long crepe paper streamers and asked them to use a streamer to list one thing that was causing them to lose focus. (And they could use as many streamers as they needed to.)
- There were so many that the streamers quickly covered the cars and we talked about how hard it is to drive forward when you feel so covered up that can’t see the people you are working with, let alone where you are going.
- Then I brought out a rocket. (The kind you buy in a toystore that you can actually launch.) The rocket was “beautifully decorated” with each of our objectives, and we talked about how looking up and focusing on where we were going could help us prioritize the demands and distractions, decrease our confusion and stress and increase our focus and results.
And yes – when we achieved all of our objectives we drove to a field and shot off that rocket!
I published this post this summer just before the U.S.A. celebrated Independence Day!
- I am republishing now because January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. Human Trafficking is modern-day slavery and it is the fastest growing crime in the world.
- And January is also the month that we honor the life of Martin Luther King Jr. for all of the work he did to bring freedom to others.
As a U.S. Citizen, I grew up being very proud of:
- My country – where people came to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
- My family – who left everything behind in their countries of origin because of oppression and poverty and came to the U.S. to pursue those ideals.
And even prouder of: My relatives and friends that served to defend the freedom of others.
Moving to the big sandbox we live in now took lots of prayer and courage because many of the freedoms I always cherished don’t exist here. …But we came believing that we were supposed to seek to understand and to learn.
We weren’t here very long when a neighbor challenged me to consider that Americans don’t have a corner on the market on freedom. I accepted her challenge and have been listening and experiencing for a little more than two years. And although we don’t have it all figured out yet, this is a bit of what we are learning…
When we announced our plans to move to a giant sandbox on the other side of the world. I promised to share both the beauty and the struggle of our experiences.
It’s been easier to capture the beauty and share it.
- Mostly because it’s energy-filled, it bubbles out and I know that people will be encouraged by it.
Sharing the negative side is tougher.
- Because it’s hard to write about the things that cause frustration and pain without being judgmental.
- And it’s even harder to write about them without feeling negative and heavy. (And that is not something I want to pass on to anyone.)
The reality is that our lives here are both beautiful and hard.