I was sitting here working on the interviews I did recently and suddenly felt inspired to share with you all the experience I had a couple weeks ago. As you know, this expat journey has been an interesting one for me. I have felt challenged in every single way and have been fairly open about it. It is authentically me to be open, and my dear friends and family can attest to that. Vulnerability is not for everyone though, I get it. I get the risks in being vulnerable, especially publicly. The word ‘vulnerable’ is literally about risk and is an inherently negative word. I often question if it’s the right thing to do. But sitting here, rewatching the interview videos and again listening to these intelligent business and political leaders talk about it, confirmed that it’s the right thing, for me. Because it is authentically me. I say all this about vulnerability because I am about to share this photo….
Yep, that’s me. Cracking on stage. In front of loads of people. And it was caught by the camera. Oh, lord. The thing is, I realize there have only been a handful of meaningful connections since I moved abroad. In this photographed moment I was asked what I valued most from the summit. And in that moment what I realized that I valued was more than just the topic. It was human connection, a community. The value of my people, for me, is beyond measure. But for two and a half years I have just been putting my head down and getting through it. Without many people. I get to travel a bit so I can’t be struggling that badly, right? It must just be ME not being able to find a job or a community that I fit into. What the hell is wrong with me?!
I have been hesitant to write it out loud because one, I do not want make broad, general statements about a culture and two, what if my future Dutch employer reads this? But a funny thing happened when I had that vulnerable and, truthfully, embarrassing moment. My internal hurt was exposed and I was horrified but, rather than judgement, there were many kind women that approached me with love and support. Turns out the struggle is common and oh so real here. Not just for me. It’s not just me. There is nothing wrong with me. And every day this struggle is confirmed by more and more expats I have been meeting, who all nod their head knowingly like “Yup, that’s the expat struggle in this land…” As for concern number two? Well I am convinced now that there will be no Dutch employer per se. And that is also quite common for an expat here, sadly.
I don’t know how I actually became “Chief Interviewer of Some Pretty Amazing Keynote Speakers” (not the official title) at the summit, but I did. Actually, that’s not true. This year has been unfolding right before my eyes and I can tell you exactly how I got to each milestone. What was meant to be blogging for the summit organically morphed into researching the speakers, watching their presentations, and then having the opportunity to sit down with them individually to interview them. And this wasn’t just any summit, it was a summit about empowering women for leadership and impact. This year has been unfolding in ways I couldn’t have imagined and, truth be told (because that’s what I do here), I am terrified. I realize now that my community is going to be different than what I had expected and I am pretty excited about my new people. The overall message that I really connected with at the summit was this: be thoughtful about what we want — first know our purpose, our why, then gather our facts, then come to the table with this package. And don’t stop showing up to the table. It was about understanding that we have a choice in the type of organization or community we work for or with. Or live.