An expat’s life: learning to grow slow

(alternative title: I am a work of art)

Hundertwasswer, The Blob Grows in the Beloved Gardens, 1975
Hundertwasswer, The Blob Grows in the Beloved Gardens, 1975

Living abroad presents a life of uncertainty. Living in your passport country can certainly offer this too, but it’s a different kind of challenge. When I don’t know what to expect, I am usually more open minded. I’ve heard beginner’s luck explained like this.

But uncertainty was one of the big reasons why being an expat appealed to me. You could say uncertainty is just another word for adventure. Although adventure gives uncertainty, or the unknown, a romantic dazzle and there is nothing dazzling about trying to maneuver your way through a different culture. I mean sometimes you need to get stuff done and trying to figure out how, can be exhausting. (I’m tired yo, give me my passport back.)

I find it ironic that my mom is living in the US currently undergoing all this confusing paperwork in regards to her retirement and changes in benefits and I’m in her home country, just finishing up taxes and other immigration paperwork. We have to rely on the help of others and have a lot of faith. (Can I get an amen?)

Of course many folks think living abroad is a brave thing. My friend Julia and I would tilt our heads back and laugh like ladies when we heard this word being used. We didn’t consider ourselves brave. But now I think to live with uncertainty can be a brave thing indeed.

But living abroad is my resistance and my renaissance. I find the challenges help me grow. My life’s mission statements are such: get the most of out of life and be the best person you can be. To me, being an expat forces me to be more tolerant, patient and present perfect.

And to be fair, I didn’t feel like part of a community when I was in the States. In college, or in school in general, it’s easier to find a group. If you’re lucky, then work can be your group too, but I just felt like I needed to break away and so for many years I lived an unsocial, quiet life.

It seems a natural progression then, that I am here. I needed to be forced out of my element so living in Thailand is my way of getting out and stretching the ‘ol mind. I also wanted to see the world. A simple dream, but I’m surrounded by so many veteran travelers that I feel like a small fish, and yet I know I need to be patient.

My big dream of going to Europe is just around the corner. When friends say, “Wow, this will be your first time going to Europe?!” I just smile and say, “Yes.” I’m a late bloomer, I guess. I didn’t move here until I was 36. Sometimes I wish I would have started earlier, that I didn’t buried myself under student loans and had taken the leap in my 20s, but it didn’t happen that way.

I suppose I am very lucky then, I get to experience the slow unfolding of my dreams rolling out like a red carpet and maybe I’ll be mature enough to appreciate every sight, smell, touch, taste and listen. . .so let me be a slow growing thing, as Hundertwasser says, they grow best.

The help of time is incredible in art.  Something grows; then it can’t fail. Only quick things fail. You feel that they do not have that patina, the mark of evolution, the mark of age. Slow-growing trees are better than fast-growing, the wood is better, they look better.

7 thoughts on “An expat’s life: learning to grow slow

  1. Lani, I really like this post. 🙂 I do have a question for you, though. You said you didn't feel a part of any community in the States. How do you feel in Thailand?I think this is a unique situation in that your ethnic heritage is Thai, but in Thailand are you in Thai social circles or in expat social circles or both? Just curious to know your perspective. Has the terrible pollution let up a bit?

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  2. Hey Amy,Long time no see! Yeah, I feel part of the Asian American community here, the expat community and the teachers community too.Sometimes I feel part of the Thai community but only when I'm blending in or with my family…not so much though.Yes, the pollution has gotten better. We had a big storm last week, we'll see how things go!

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  3. I surrender, give up, face the embarassment of failing. Hopes of retiring in Chiang Mai are dashed. I am going back to the states and I hate myself for it.

    With so many wonderful things in Chiang Mai it is easy to keep hanging on but the truth is I do not belong here and never will. The language creates a gulf that will never be bridged and do not believe the lie that most Thai’s speak English. I have even been very tolerant with the crazy traffic here but that is getting to be lately. Many things are getting to me lately. Sure signs I have outstayed my welcome.

    For my own good and to the benefit of the gentle Thais I am headed back to the US. Since I do not like living in the US I will again look into opportunities south of the border.

    Best wishes to all who are braver, stronger, smarter than me. I give up.

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    1. Best wishes. Can’t say that I blame you. I left after 9 months of trying to make it work. Went to Ecuador (you might want to look into that) but I returned and everything fell into place. It hasn’t been without its ups and downs but I do wish you the best on your next adventure. Thanks for reading…

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