Tuesday, December 5, 2017

I WISH I KNEW THEN WHAT I KNOW NOW

Orly airport, outside of Paris, France.   A lonely, scared 22-year-old sat on a bench feeling like she had just made the biggest mistake of her life.

Distraught, she barely heard the last and final call for her flight to Yaounde, Cameroon, West Africa.  She bolted into action and ran like the wind towards a future unknown and unraveled.

On that journey to my first overseas assignment in Cameroon, I felt like I had signed away my life to the British Foreign & Commonwealth Office, trading breath itself in exchange for adventure.  

Growing up in and around Glasgow, Scotland I had up until that point lived a delightfully provincial, charming, yet small life.

Burning in my bones was this idea that there must be “more."  But more what? more travel, more freedom, more choices?   I just knew something was impelling me forward.

                  I wish that I knew what I know now,
                  When I was younger,
                  I wish that I knew what I know now,
                  When I was stronger


Flash forward to today, 2017 a so-called baby-boomer, living in the USA with multiple countries and cultures under my belt - what would I tell that anxious, frightened adult/child who sat quivering on the bench at Orly?

Imagine I was a fairy godmother, what wishes would I grant her?

I would pack a suitcase full of wishes to carry with her.  I would tell her that a life filled with wonder doesn’t just happen all by itself; a life full of satisfaction and fulfillment requires time, intention and immense focus to dance with adventure.

After four continents, six countries, over 25 moves, four languages and many homes the suitcase full of wishes would be packed like this.

    I wish I had known everything turns out in the end - and whenever it isn’t looking good - it's not the end of the chapter. More intention, more application and a bit of persistence is required to have the successful resolution.

     I wish I had understood the "law of unintended consequences”.  Our decisions have consequences that take us into worlds we never would have imagined – this is absolutely natural and perfect.

     I wish I had applied myself to being more “me”.   I wish I had told the deeper truth more often, spoken up more frequently, been less “nice” and taken much better care of myself.

     
    I wish I had understood all along that day-by-day and moment-by-moment something was growing inside my soul.  My perspective, my memories, a richer deeper imagination and a more mature appreciation was germinating.

     I wish I had understood the beautiful value of grief and the children it bears along the road.  Leaving a trail of beloved people, cultures and places behind builds up an internal mountain of grief to be processed and loved. I continue to climb this hill.  My steps are more deliberate, more loving and accepting of the new life I give birth to daily.

     I wish I had been more consistent and less impetuous.  I also wish I had taken more risks.

     I wish I had the tools I have now.  Primarily those of gratitude & forgiveness. I would have practiced them more frequently and become more confident in their application.

     I wish I knew that I was smart.

     I wish I knew then that life is precious and portable. Grabbing adventure by the horns gives us the opportunity to create a bigger world-view.

     I wish I knew then that relationships require so much application and work. Building a team requires being global-hearted and open-minded.

                If I knew then what I know now,
                I’d be different, I would slow down,
                As the world spins round and around,
                I wish I knew then what I know now.

                Lyfe Jennings, lyrics

I would also recommend that young adult pack some tools for the journey. 


a)     Look at all sides.  Don’t allow your perspective to narrow down to looking at only one side of a situation.

    b)     Maintain an open mind.  Be willing to be surprised and delighted and prepare yourself for that.

c)    Align yourself with people who share your values, let that be your north star.   And, avoid people who believe they can succeed on their own – success is almost always collaborative.

d)      Ask questions that begin with “what” and rarely ask
        questions that begin with “why”, better answers ensue.

Had my invisible suitcase been packed with these wishes and tools, I believe the journey might have remained the same, yet I would have been different – perhaps more fun.

Here’s to your version of “more”, what “more” would you love? Where is your next adventure taking you?  For a copy of the Expat Toolkit – An A to Z Guide of Who You Need to Be to Master the Adventurous Life go to EXPAT TOOLKIT


Enjoy the ride, use the tools and keep us updated as to the success you are building through your unique and unrepeatable adventure.

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