Last week a friend of mine was talking about how even though she was going through a difficult experience, she was feeling super positive because when she reflected on how she would have dealt with that experience a year ago she could see how much she’s grown. This really inspired me! I feel like a lot of the time, when faced with a difficult experience I often get dragged down by negative emotions, but this perspective changed something for me. It got me thinking about how instead of focusing on a difficulty at hand, I can think about how much I’ve grown as a person and how I would have dealt with the same difficulty a year ago.
This thinking has changed something for me in the past week as I’ve been reflecting a lot on my move to DC. Things have been tough! It’s a big adjustment to move across the world to a completely new environment and adjust to academics and busy college life at the same time. However, instead of allowing myself to be dragged down by negative emotions and anxiety (and I’m not saying that I don’t do this, I definitely have some bad days!) I’ve been trying to focus on my growth. I’ve been thinking a lot about my move from London to Dubai when I was 12 and how difficult that was for me – that was the spark to start this blog! I’ve been comparing how I dealt with both of these moves and have been celebrating my growth! So in this post, I’m going to reflect a bit on both of those moves and share some areas of growth. Hopefully, this will show you how we can all re-orient ourselves to focus on positive development rather than the difficult experience.
When I think back to my first expat move, albeit it was 7 years ago, I can really see how much my mindset has changed! During that first move, I would experience negative emotions such as homesickness or anxiety, and I’d completely let that take over my mind. It was like, if I had one bad emotion that day, it would ruin the whole day. I’ve found that this time around, even if I wake up in the morning and I’m feeling slightly homesick or nervous, I don’t let this take over my entire day. I’m able to acknowledge that emotion, but also tell myself that this doesn’t define the whole day. I’m really proud of this progress! When going through a big life transition, emotions like this are normal, but I’m happy that I know how to respond to them this time around.
On a similar note, I feel like during my last expat move I would let those emotions get the better of me, and get in the way of other things such as academics, fun weekends with friends, or hobbies. This time around, I feel as though I’m able to focus on other important things too, and not let these emotions hold me back from doing well in class or participating in a really cool opportunity, and I’m grateful for that!
Another bit of progress I’ve been reflecting on this time around is another mindset change. When I went through my first expat move, moving to a new environment with all new people (apart from my family) made me very nervous! I felt like I was searching for people who had similar life experiences as me (moved from London, had similar hobbies etc), and I felt like as soon as I found those people I would finally feel at home (which was just not a good mindset to have). This time around, in a completely new environment with new people, I don’t find myself searching for people with the same life experiences. I’ve realized that it’s okay that not everyone knows where Dubai is, or not everyone knows about that one British TV show that I love watching. As cheesy as it sounds, our differences do make us better people. I’ve enjoyed learning things about American culture that I didn’t know before, and I hope my friends have enjoyed learning about my culture too. I’ve grown as a person and realized that not everyone has to have the same experiences as me to know where I’m coming from.
During my last move, I think I spent so much time thinking about how excited I was to go “home” for the winter or summer break, that it took me much longer to settle than it needed to. This time around, I’m excited to see my family again and to go home in the winter break, but it’s not what I’m constantly thinking about all the time! As much as the transition is difficult, I’m also really enjoying my time here and spending it with friends. I think this is a really healthy bit of progress I’ve made; this time around I’m not just focusing on the next “familiar” experience of going home, but doing my best to embrace the “unknown” experience and make this place more like home.
One last reflection I was thinking about was my support structures and coping mechanisms. When I went through my first move, I had my family with me and we were all there for each other. But this time it was more of a solo move and I’ve grown to really appreciate my support structures (shoutout to my amazing family!) It’s been a lesson in knowing that even though I’m physically in this place by myself, I’m not alone!
This post was a little more reflective than my usual content, but I wanted to share this new mindset with you! Sometimes it’s good to pat yourself on the back and celebrate some progress, and that’s what I’ve been doing this week! Let me know in the comments if you use this mindset or how you might implement it.
See you next week,