It happened again.
A little more than a week ago I was over at a friend’s blog, reading a post that got me thinking.
The good ones always do. They intrigue and inspire, prod and provoke, query and occasionally even quarrel.
A sign of a good post? For me, it’s the ones that stay on my mind, hiding in the recesses of my brain. My thoughts return to them over and over again, like your tongue sneaking its way over the sore, empty socket where a tooth recently resided.
Another sign? Again, for me, it’s when I immediately scroll down to respond in the comments section. I type along, fingers tripping over each other as they race to keep up with the words spilling from my lips.
Yes, at times like this I tend to get excited and start muttering aloud in the hopes that if I hear it as I think it, I won’t forget to write it.
Hey, don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. It works. Usually.
And somewhere in the midst of drafting my comment – often by the third sentence but almost certainly by the fourth – I realize that I’m so taken with the topic that it may well require a blog post of my own.
Such was the case with Russell’s The Flip Side of the Coin over on his site In Search of a Life Less Ordinary. It started with some emails from aspiring or soon-to-be expats who credited his blog with encouraging them to take the plunge into building a new life abroad.
It then segued into a rumination about ‘the other side of the coin’ that expat bloggers may not always be so quick to share: missing those ‘back home’ while building new friendships overseas, and how a visit to the former can leave some of us lamenting the seemingly superficial depth of the latter as we’ve connected in a ‘we’re all in this expat life together’ sort of way.
It isn’t that we don’t like our newfound friends and acquaintances, it’s more that we may not have the time and mileage of experiences under our belts the way well-worn friendships do.
Russell mentioned how visiting ‘back home’ and the ease with which we fall back into conversation and shared remembrances with family and lifelong friends can make us wistful and a bit withdrawn when we return to our current lives in expat land.
He went on to wonder whether some of us expat bloggers inadvertently gloss over the negative in our exuberance to share the positive. Are we candid enough? Do we suppress the less-than-pleasant? Do we paint the full picture?
As with every good post, it generated many comments and prompted a little introspection.
My thoughts? Between the post and the insightful comments, Russell had started an honest, heartfelt conversation about the other side of the expat coin, one that anyone considering pulling up stakes and moving abroad should definitely take note of.
It also got me thinking about the many reasons we all tend to blog, and thus the blogs – and by extension, the blogging communities – we create. When I started Adventures in Expat Land, I was fully cognizant that while we usually think of excitement and new experiences when we hear the word ‘adventures’, it can and does include the less-than-savory as well.
I’ve tried to present the entire picture, or as Russell describes it, both sides of the expatriate coin. Why? Because I never positioned my blog as anything other than one woman’s conversational view of life in another culture.
I’m fully aware that as a raging extrovert (yes, I once rated a 49 out of 50 for extroversion), I’m a people-person. I like meeting new people, striking up conversations, making connections regardless of whether they are short-lived in nature or destined to last.
I like learning about what other people find of interest, what matters to them, what makes them tick.
Why just last night Daughter was regaling her aunt, uncle and cousins the story of how she ended up sitting on Queen Elizabeth’s thronelike chair in Westminster Abbey during a family trip to London a few years ago. My sister-in-law reported that Daughter led with ‘Well, you know how my mother always wants to make new friends everywhere she goes…’
So, yeah, I tend to meet people as I go through this world. LOTS of people. Interesting people, sad people, contented people, unhappy people, fascinating people, lonely people, charming people – you name it, I’ve met them. There are far worse ways to be described by your child than Daughter’s gentle poking fun at my penchant for making connections.
I’ve learned more about the world we live in and the little microcosms in which these people live, and my life has been richer for these connections, no matter how fleeting. I’d like to think that their lives are enriched in some small way by our encounters as well.
I’ve come to also realize that in the end, all I can do is write about my life, my experiences, my perspectives.
Husband is generally a very private person, and Son and Daughter are (now) older teens, which by definition means ‘I can spill whatever I care to about my own life but don’t you dare share anything without asking’. For the record, I do check with them if I’m in any danger of straying over the line into their privacy.
With my ‘writing boundaries’ clearly delineated, I think I’ve done a fairly good job of adhering to the spirit, if not always the letter, of the law.
I don’t think I’ve allowed this to become a whitewashed, Pollyanna-ish version of expat life. Along the way I’ve found it easier to sometimes share certain of the less appetizing aspects in articles published elsewhere, and then often shared back here on this site.
I feel that I’ve shared the positive as well as the less positive, the pros as well as the cons, the upside as well as the down.
Taken all together, I’m comfortable with how I’ve portrayed expat life because I’ve usually focused on sharing my expat life. Not every minute detail, but the bold brushstrokes that make the painting.
Because in the end, I may well be an extrovert and a glass-half-full kind of gal, but I am also nothing if not one who seeks balance. I deplore the false sunniness of ‘life is perfect’ blogs every bit as much as I cannot tolerate the whining ‘Debby Downers’ of the blogosphere.
Give me reality. Give me honesty. But also give me growing insights borne out of experience, a sense of burgeoning wisdom, a knack for putting things into perspective.
Give me the strength to seek improvement, the fortitude to make necessary changes and above all, the capacity for appreciation and gratitude.
It’s what I hope for in my life, it’s what I strive for on this site, and it’s what I look for in the blogs I read.