Tag Archives: expatjourney

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked

I have just seen another post about not believing what you see on social media. And (in the case of friends and family anyway) I disagree. Disregarding brands and influencers, I believe what you all are showing me. Just because we are only showing the good parts? So? I personally share what brings me joy. I know you all are sharing your joy too. And sometimes even your real, raw pain. But mostly joy. Okay look, we all know when filters have been applied, but who cares? If you are not comfy with your image at the moment but you want to share, what do I care?! We are all adults and we all know that being an adult is basically just constantly trying to dodge shitty landmines. So let people live, y’all!! Let them share their joy and hide their sorrow.

I really for the life of me can’t figure out why people care so much if it’s only joyful, filtered social media posts. You wouldn’t show up to a party without making yourself look nice and talking about the crappy aspects of life. You would be a social pariah! I honestly see no difference.

I probably never would have written about this but, I am an inconsistent (at best) listener of “Oprah’s Super Soul Conversations” and I happened to catch a recent one with Lupita Nyong’o. I am so glad that I did. In it Oprah reads a quote of Nyong’o, “Joy is not the absence of pain but happiness in spite of it.” Nyong’o credits Khalil Gibran which led me to track it down.

Then a woman said, Speak to us of Joy and Sorrow.

And he answered:

Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.

And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with tears.

And how else can it be?

The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.

Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?

And is not the lute that soothes your spirit, the very wood that was hollowed with knives?

When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.

When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.

Some of you say, “Joy is greater than sorrow,” and others say, “Nay, sorrow is the greater.”

But I say unto you, they are inseparable.

Together they come, and one sits alone with you at your board, remember that the other is asleep on your bed.

Verily you are suspended like scales between your sorrow and your joy.

Only when you bare empty are you at standstill and balanced.

When the reassure-keeper lifts you to weigh his gold and his silver, needs must your sorrow rise and fall.

Khalil Gibran, The Prophet

These inspired me to write because, well I suppose this resonates with me as I essentially started this blog journey due to the fact that I was worried I was misrepresenting my life. That it appeared to only be a travel adventure when in fact I had been suffering too. And I have been noticing several friends feeling as though they too need to let their feed know that they are also experiencing the crappy part of life on the other side of the lens. What I have come to realize, and I hope that my readers who quickly judge the “fakeness” of social media will realize, is that most are not masking it but rather basking in the joy. Because the sorrow will come again, soon enough, because they are inseparable. Because “joy is not the absence of pain but happiness in spite of it.” Let’s celebrate each others joyous moments, they are not fake. They are what keeps us balanced, healthy, and whole.

Cracked.


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.

I Didn’t Choose This Midlife Crisis, It Chose Me

I have been absent from the blog the last two months which, let’s be honest, is a bit inexcusable considering I have only published four posts. I wasn’t truly absent though. I have six unpublished posts that I was working on. They were essentially all about me trying to make friends in a new land. It’s sad, I know, and is why they were never published. More on that another time.

In the time since I last published a post, I went home. As in back to the US. Initially it was planned to be a typical visit- filling up my calendar with all the eating, shopping and friends & family I could. But I lost someone dear to me. So I went in a quiet way. It unintentionally became intentional. Everything I did and every person I saw had meaning (don’t get me wrong, I still practically overdosed on tacos) but while I was there I realized I was “elevator pitching” my life. And okay fine, when you are networking to find work or other opportunities you gotta do what you gotta do. But to the people who love me the most. I mean, if I feel I have to justify my existence with them! …but actually, what the fuck am I doing?!

So I got a little panicked about what I’m DOING over here. Or not doing to be more accurate. Regret, fear, confidence-killing thoughts have been in the back of my mind for a couple of years now. Is it cultural? Why am I unemployable? Why didn’t I finish that damn degree? Should I have stayed at home with the kids for a decade? They barely even remember my sacrifice for them! Ugh, my age… Also, I really should sign up for Dutch language lessons and stop using an app to learn because maybe that will fix everything.

And then recently I was asked what I do, to which I replied, “Nothing” and laughed. I said it without the usual feeling of embarrassment or fear of judgement. I surprised myself really but I just didn’t have the energy for the elevator pitch. Obviously it isn’t entirely true that I am doing nothing. Maybe the better answer would have been, “I am unemployed and just don’t know where I’m going from here.” What I do know is that I am not doing what society and my anxiety has decided I should be doing at this age and to be honest I am tired of feeling shame and guilt about it. I have so much respect for my dear friends that have their career shit figured out and many of them are doing such incredible things. This last trip, however, helped me realize that it was okay to not know. Again. Still. And to not know with confidence. I am so proud of the many women in my life who are rocking their careers. I am here for it. I will always have their backs. To be honest, I wish I was rocking one too. But I guess there was a reason my sorority (yes, I pledged a college sorority, guys )name was Waldo. As in, “Where’s Waldo?” I’m not necessarily lost but…

With the help of friends and self-help memes I have realized that, although I didn’t exactly choose this path, it is okay to be an expat, new and inconsistent blogger, who has been volunteering for an organization that educates and advocates for leadership advancement and financial inclusion of women in work and marketplace, who travels as much as possible (and should probably start blogging about that rather than my existential midlife crises), occasionally helps in the local lingerie shop, who is training for a 15K race, and is diligently networking for the job that’s right for me here, that will hopefully lead to a later-in-life career. I guess that’s the new elevator pitch. I’m curious how would you all elevator pitch yourself if you couldn’t use your work/job in the pitch?