flexible

Reinvent and Survive – What’s next?

My Gypsy Costume, age 4

My Gypsy Costume, age 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I often see articles in magazines and on the web about people who have “reinvented” themselves; or articles about how to reinvent yourself at 40 or 50. I recently came across one titled Reinvent Your Life at 30, 40, 50, 60. I found some of the stories boring. One was about a woman going from fashion designer to designing art and yoga retreats for women. Okay, I’m a little cynical. It just seemed too easy.

The 60 year old was the most interesting. She started raising money by climbing mountains. Good thing she was able to connect with a lot of generous people who sponsored her. She raised $160,000 for multiple sclerosis. Then she lost everything to Bernie Madoff and had to go to work for real. She started a catering business and then went into real estate. A real survivor.

I keep thinking I want to reinvent myself and go off on some new adventure. But when read these types of articles, I realize I have been reinventing myself my whole life. Every move was a new start. Every new school a clean slate. I could be whoever I wanted to be and do whatever I wanted to do.

It carried over into my career as well. I applied for a job in publishing production because I thought it would be cool to work in the glamorous world of magazine publishing. I ended that career as production manager for a small magazine nobody ever heard of. Then I had a brief career in the printing industry. I’m not sure what I was doing there but it wasn’t my calling.

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Washington, DC

After I got married I followed my husband around, first to Florida where I worked for a questionable insurance company doing data entry because I could not find anything else. Next move was Washington DC where I went to work for the Federal Government, doesn’t everybody? In Moscow, I worked for the British Embassy as a secretary where I had to re-learn to spell properly. Then I ran a translation company doing everything from training to payroll.  My last job was printing visas for Russian businesspeople at the US Embassy.

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Moscow

Back in the US I did data entry for General Electric and finally found a job with a social research organization back in Washington DC, in the IT department of all things.

I had to be able to adjust and evolve to fit into my surroundings. To be flexible. To survive.

And I did survive.

When we moved to Bogota, I switched my accent from Mexican to Colombian. No problem. In Nigeria, it took me a while, but eventually I could fake some good Pidgin English and understand what people were saying. No problem. When I went to college in the US and suffered severe reverse culture shock, I figured it out and learned to blend in. No problem. In Moscow, I learned to keep my mouth shut so people wouldn’t know I was foreign. And I learned to read Cyrillic. No problem.

As I get older, I keep thinking there should be a next phase. What will come next? But then I remind myself, I have already started down that path. My blog is almost two years old, I write for an online newspaper, and I have published two books. It is my new direction, and I am loving it!

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Leaving things behind

I am currently reading, Overseas American: Growing Up Gringo in the Tropics by Gene H. Bell-Villada.  It is a very personal account of a difficult childhood.  Throughout the book he quotes from other books about TCK’s and Global Nomads.

“The Absentee American belongs to no culture, or perhaps to all cultures… To the Absentee American, all countries, including the United States, are ‘foreign.’  By the same token any country can be ‘home.’ “– Carolyn D Smith, the Absentee American

“Reentry is a significant event for the Absentee American; the experience may be vividly recollected decades later.  Respondents described reentry as difficult, painful, turbulent, or traumatic… The experience is often referred to as a shock.. . In professional literature on the subject, this transition is generally referred to as euphoria, irritability, hostility, gradual adjustment, and adaptation.”  — Carolyn D Smith, the Absentee American

When I first saw these quotes, I went looking among my books for the Absentee American, Hidden Immigrants, Letters Never Sent, and Strangers at Home.  All books I knew I had read and was sure I had.  Then I remembered.  No I didn’t.

While I was living in Russia, I discovered there was a label for people like me – Third Culture Kid, or Global Nomad – and I wanted to read everything I could get my hands on about it.  I accumulated a small library and I poured over them and re-read them.  It was my great moment of self discovery.

My apartment in Moscow had a long hallway with floor to ceiling bookcases along one side.  They were full of books, music CD’s, videos, and a few knick knacks.  My special TCK books were prominently displays on those bookcases.

After almost nine years living as an expat in Moscow, we unexpectedly had to leave quickly.  My husband, son, and I landed back in the USA with six suit cases.  Everything else, all the things we had accumulated over nine years of life remained in Moscow.  At the time those things were the least of my problems.  I had never grown particularly attached to “things” and didn’t think much of it.  It is only now, ten years later, that I find myself thinking, “what ever happened to…?”  or  ” I sure wish I had….”.  Most everything was replaceable, of course, but some of these books in particular are now out of print, expensive and hard to find.  It would be nice to have them to refer to as I work on my book, but not necessary.

As Linda over at Adventures in Expat Land  says, flexibility is key!