Part 5: You can re-evaluate the type of person you hope to be.
When you are living abroad you will start to really understand what it means to be you and who you actually are. We all present a certain person to the world, and sometimes this person differs from who we feel we really are inside. If you want to learn how to match up the two and perhaps be a ‘better’ version of yourself, move abroad! Moving abroad is an exposing experience.
Firstly, you start to have to rely on basic instincts. I don’t mean in the animal in jungle style, although of course this depends on where you have moved! I mean, in order to set up a new home in a new community, you start again. A blank slate and fresh start. Any knowledge you had of your old community, like where to go for good coffee or where serves the best pint, is gone. You have to start from the beginning. This means relying on instincts you perhaps haven’t exercised in while, like how to find your new favourite green grocers. It easy to forget this at the beginning of moving, especially once you are more settled in your new home. It really can provide that fresh start though, as long as you realise that emotional baggage comes along for the ride…
On moving Japan, we had an advantage! Dan would be working from home for five hours a day. This meant that in his afternoons, when free, he could go out scouting the local area. It was this way that we found the wonderful Beat Cafe, which has featured in many blogs! It certainly isn’t a cafe you would just stumble on as you head to the shops, as it sits on the edge of a local beach, but near very little else. In starting again and relying on instincts of which places are ‘me’, I have found myself understanding a little more about what makes me tick. Turns out a nice drink in a relaxing environment is pretty important to me…peace and quiet isn’t something I realised I needed.
Secondly, you will be blessed with time and the chance to look a little closer at who you want to be and the mark you want to leave on the world. This is the cliche of ‘finding yourself’ I think. For some people, travelling and moving abroad is pretty transformative. It can help shape that person for their future. For us, moving abroad has given us a bit of head space to work out what marks we want to leave on the world. We are never going to be those career chasers, but we certainly both have passion when it comes to certain things, and we want futures that allow us to nurture those internal flames. I have reaffirmed my commitment to working in education, but now I have more focus on which area this will focus on. Dan has realised that his past experiences in game development planted a seed, which is now growing. If we hadn’t moved to Japan, we may never have discovered what sat in the heart of those niggling feelings that we weren’t quite hitting the mark in what we did each day.
You will also build relationships with new people, which will be both positive and negative, and which can remind you about the characteristic in people that impress you the most. This has been a tough one to work through. People move abroad for lots of different reasons and motivations. Inevitably, we have been placed into a pre-established ex-pat community in Yamaguchi. The JET programme has been going since 1987, and so we entered as just another batch of ALTs willing to give teaching English a go. On that journey, both physical and metaphorical, we have met many different people. I have seen how people have responded to difficult situations, which challenge them each day. In doing this, I have witnessed a range of human behaviours, both good and bad.
I have a good friend in the UK who is an angel. She is kind, caring, and generous. For a long time, she has been a bit of a ‘guider’ to me. If I do something and I get that feeling inside me which tells me it isn’t quite right, I try to think, ‘what would she do?’ When I can answer this, I usually know it is the right thing to do, and I usually feel it too. I have used this method a lot in Japan, when trying to build relationships and a new life. This isn’t something I would have ever really realised if I hadn’t moved abroad, because in moving, it has thrown me into the spotlight. Suddenly I was ‘new’ and surrounded by people making judgments about the type of person I am. Every time I think about her and what she would do, it reminds me of the type of person I want to be. I am still working on this, though…