The idea of leaving your country has probably crossed your mind at least once.
Almost everyone is faced with a time in their life when they feel they have been backed up against the wall without many options—which can be especially devastating if you are used to success. This bizarre and totally strange moment is when you can choose to remain in the depths of an unhappy comfort zone or open your horizons to the possibilities of the world outside.
If there is any time that you will recognize ‘facing your fears’ it will be the nanosecond that you begin looking at going to another country. As explained in my article on ‘Colored Girl Confidential,’ you will need to ask yourself the most important questions:
“Will this empower me? Does this enhance my life or take away from it? Does this make me feel alive or dead inside? These open the gates to the big question that you have to be clear with yourself on and that is that you aren’t running away from your problems.” Answering honestly is not only exhilarating, but it creates your first sense of individual freedom.
There have been four crucial lessons that I learned in making my own leap-of-faith in moving outside of the country and accepting a teaching position. These were not just life lessons but they empowered me to build a fearless taste for life. Moving to Abu Dhabi wasn’t just relocating, it was being alive again.
You Don’t Have to Control Everything
If you are like me, you feel comfortable in having certain things that are predictable. When you relocate to another country, you have to relinquish that attitude and for some, that can be frightening, especially because there will probably not be any special treatment, just because you are an ‘American.’ There were papers to turn in at work, to the government, to the bank, to the apartment building, to this or that person. These papers had to be stamped, signed, filed, sent back to me, returned back, and I had no control or say. I had to get medical exams as a new entry in the country, and there was no saying “no.” Things just happened, and the fewer questions the better I learned.
In the same article, I expose how I felt: “We are just like anyone else in a new place: lost, confused, and awkward…. As a control freak, I cherish the comfort of predictability. It was nice to give that up and watch matters unfold and develop on their own.”
Learning to trust the process and others is key to any transition and transformation.
Nets appear when you least expect it
From LinkedIn to social media and websites, there are people that will help you and are available to answer questions about their experiences, what to expect and all of the cultural differences to prepare for. You can ‘meet’ people and develop a good relationship before you even leave and once you do arrive, you will find that there is a net of individuals that are willing to share, even when you least expect it. It doesn’t take long to connect with other like-minded people and enjoy social activities that offer friendship and support.
How to Quiet a Room
As a teacher in Abu Dhabi, I faced cultural differences that were not ‘everyday’ in my upbringing. You adjust, balance, and make changes to accommodate. Some of the challenges that I faced were a bit daunting. Walking into a classroom that held 30, talkative Arab men in long, white kanduras was itself transformative. The school admins were always confused why I didn’t have complaints to file every week like the other teachers. My usual protocol in U.S. schools was to be strict, but I learned how to have a gentler hand. I expanded my personal abilities and I realized that my job was to keep them focused, actively learning, and drawing attention to their needs, rather than my own. I had to be willing to let them be who they were, and see what emerged.
The Unknown Can Inspire Knowing Yourself
When there isn’t any roadmap you are put in a position where you need to find a way to make something happen from nothing. This can inspire you to have a greater vision of yourself and transform from who you are now to being a citizen of the world. Will everything be perfect? No, but you will build an essential skill to thrive in life no matter what the circumstances that few people can muster. Abu Dhabi opened up even more areas of critical thinking as I explored myself at deeper levels and enhanced the relationship I have with the world, which, ultimately, is the one I have with myself.