I’m so pleased to introduce this guest post, since it made me cry when I read it. Many of you know Linda A. Janssen from our monthly NorthSouthEastWest: Expat Dispatches post swap, or from her tales as an American expat in the Netherlands on her blog, Adventures in Expatland. What you may not know is that Linda is also a contributor to Turning Points, a new anthology released last week. When Linda first floated the idea of a guest post, I knew it would be more than a run-of-the-mill plug for her book. What I wasn’t expecting was such a lovely tribute to I Was An Expat Wife. Thanks, Linda — I’m off to buy my copy now! 🙂
As I was planning my ‘virtual book tour’ for our new book, Turning Points: 25 Inspiring Stories From Women Entrepreneurs Who Have Turned Their Careers and Their Lives Around, I knew I’d be swinging by eastern Canada to visit Maria here at I Was an Expat Wife.
In a nutshell, the book pulls together a collection of stories from women from around the globe, each sharing the pivotal moment or series of events that made them realize they needed to implement drastic, immediate and absolute change in their personal and professional lives.
Each woman goes on to share how she reached this turning point, what she chose to change and how, the resources she drew upon along the way, and any words of wisdom for others facing a similar journey.
I’ve been following Maria for a long time, and despite the past tense verb in her blog’s name, I will confess that I’d read a half dozen or so of her posts before I realized she was was back ‘home’ in Canada.
I can be forgiven this seemingly odd oversight because of the caliber of her writing. Maria would weave stories about living here or traveling there, and the pictures she painted were so vivid and the emotions rang so true that I hadn’t noticed that she was repatriated. I remember thinking that she wrote in a way that was more honest and interesting than many others who were detailing their current travails and experiences.
I distinctly recall making a mental note that repatriation was far harder than most people realized for a variety of reasons, and tucked that thought into the back of my brain for safekeeping.
What probably sealed our cyber friendship was back in April when she started publishing her insightful series on the role of the ‘Big Five‘ psychological traits in expat adjustment. I read the first post and was hooked; after that I would eagerly await the next installment, devouring it immediately upon receipt in my electronic mailbox.
She included incredibly descriptive vignettes of various women dealing with adjustment to overseas life in different ways. I could easily visualize these women and the situations they faced, and often would think ‘oh, she reminds me a bit of so-and-so’ or ‘this one has shades of that woman I met last month’.
What surprised me most was that she ranked on the lower end of the spectrum on openess to experience and conscientiousness. This from a longtime expat who lived in places and cultures as diverse as France, Singapore and Australia, and who was writing the most detailed, comprehensive posts imaginable. Surely the test results were incorrect!
Just when I was wondering how she could possibly wrap it all up in the concluding post, pulling together what seemed like an unusual mixture of disparate psychological traits and explaining their role in expat adjustment, Maria came through. I won’t ruin the surprise here because I really hope you’ll take the time to read the entire series. But let’s just say that her analogy to a hockey game made up of the various traits was, and remains, brilliant.
It dawned on me that Maria and I are a metaphor for the Turning Points book.
We may have lived in and currently reside in entirely different countries and cultures, have different career backgrounds, and be at slightly different places in our lives. While she wonders whether her family is destined to ever move abroad again in the years ahead, I’m wondering how long we’ll be here in The Netherlands and where we’ll head next.
Her children are a bit younger than mine, with my eldest having headed off to university this summer. She’s still in the thick of things with pre- and early teens requiring more time and attention than my older teens; I’m learning to let go while staying appropriately involved, and trying to get a handle on parenting from afar.
The very strength of Turning Points is in the differences among the women, in their backgrounds, situations, their moment of enlightenment, and how they proceeded to change their lives. It’s the same with Maria and I and all the others who choose to share insights into our experiences living in cultures other than the one in which we were raised.
That’s why I like to celebrate all the different stories. Each nuance, aspect or kernel of information that reminds us that we are not all the same. We don’t always think or act or make the same choices, or respond similarly. In the end, that’s what makes it all the more challenging and far more interesting.
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If you’d like to find out more about our book, please take a look at the website The Turning Points Book, or follow along on Facebook’s The Turning Points Book page or on Twitter @Turning_Points. A portion of all sales will benefit the inspirational charity Seeds for Development.