07 May 2012

How to be an Expat Wife :: Lesson #2

#2. Say Yes. To everything. 
(If it's lame, you can quit later.)

When Amos first applied to the job that would bring us to Japan, I didn't really think about it. We decided that we would only entertain the idea of moving abroad if the offer came our way. After all, why borrow trouble? Then we went about our merry little lives.

Okay, you caught me. That's a lie. Once Amos interviewed and Japan became a possibility, I couldn't put it out of my head. It rattled in there for weeks. In theory, I had always wanted to live abroad, the same way that I theoretically always wanted to speak several languages and have a killer wardrobe. (As I type this, I'm in my husband's sweatpants, haven't studied my Japanese in days, and regret that I forgot all that Spanish I once knew). Real life is much messier than theoretical life. Real life has other important and fun things to do, like have a career, a relationship, a happy hour or two. You get busy, you know, living.

When we were finally offered the job and Japan was, officially, on the table, we had one week to decide. I had been obsessed with the possibility of moving over here, but then shit got real. I had family, friends, a great job, a happy life in Seattle. Give all that up? For what? Sushi? I was a mess. It was impossible to determine what I was feeling. Did I have rose colored glasses for the life that I knew? (Yes.) Did Amos have rose colored glasses for the potential life abroad? (Yes.)

During that crazy week, I ended up calling my cousins, Mike and Meghan, who had lived as expats for six years in Amsterdam and London. I had visited them once when I studied abroad, but in the self-absorbed way that only college-aged kids can really muster, I never thought about their life. They were just there, the adult version of Study Abroad, except they had way nicer digs and seemed to eat more vegetables.

"Just go," they said. "You'll figure it all out over there. Go." Which is all fine and good, but I needed more assurance. I spoke with Meghan, my cousin's wife, who was the trailing spouse. I asked her a million questions: Did she like it? Was she bored? Would she do it again? She gave a piece of advice that stuck with me: Say Yes to everything. Even if it sounds totally lame. You can always quit later, but you never know where it could lead.

Here I was, a totally scared newlywed deciding to move across the world with my husband of two months, and -- boy -- did I take that lesson to heart. Did I want to go grab coffee? Yes. Did I want to take ikebana? Yes. Did I ski? Yes. Did I want to go tomorrow? Yes. I hung out with moms and babies, I hung out with people my parents age, I made no judgements or limited myself in any way.

Let me tell you: this strategy WORKS. True, I have more ongoing craft projects than Martha Stewart (such as hand sewing a yukata, a summer kimono, a hobby so old school that my Japanese tutor thinks it's hilarious). I've made friends and begun to find a niche. Yukata class leads to expat Facebook groups which leads to dinner and karaoke parties that have nothing to do with kimonos. Ikebana leads to Calligraphy which leads to a new friend Jennifer which leads to hiking trails across Japan and barely tea (my newest obsession). Skiing leads to my friend Anna which leads to girls' night where I met a host of other, really fun, really lovely ladies, and I actually left the house past dark without my husband, and I think that's important to do occasionally.

Anna also made a great point that, soon enough, I'll have been over here long enough that I'll wake up one day, get an invite, and think to myself, 'Naw, I don't have time for that, and it's not really my thing.' Just like that, I'll have reached the place where I have a community, a life, and a plan for how to live in this country. My friend Vicki recently reached it about 6 months in. I'm been here just over 3 months, so I'm still very much in the 'YES' phase, but I'm looking forward to the 'Maybe, next time' phase. That's gonna be awesome.

Truth be told, however, I think this 'Yes' philosophy is pretty crucial for living abroad. In fact, I think you have to kind of subscribe to this to even end up over here. You had to say Yes to leaving your comfortable and happy home to move to a great unknown. You had to be willing to Just Go. By doing this, Amos and I have ended up really happy, even considering the inevitable lows and occasional homesickness. If I was to be called one day by someone thinking of being an expat, I'd have the exact same advice. Just Go. You'll figure it out. And don't forget to say Yes.

(Photo via Pintrest with no source (damn them). If you know, please reach out.)

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