Tell us about a time when you felt out of place….
Okay.. I got this one! It seems many of the daily prompts just don’t resonate with me, but obviously this one does! Although I’ve mostly recovered from my earlier bouts of feeling serious culture shock (Serious? well, maybe not too Serious!), that doesn’t mean that I feel ‘at home’ all the time. I’m gradually adapting to my new life in Panama but there are countless situations when I feel terribly out of place. Situations, that mostly come about as a result of not having a firm grasp on the language yet. “YET!” But mark my words….” There will be a day when I’ll speak like an adult and not like a pre schooler!” And I’m certain this alone will provide a sense of belonging that is, at the moment often alluding me.
This is an aspect of expatriating , not feeling as though you exactly, ‘belong,’ that’s most definitely not exclusively my experience. And I should say, not just ‘expatriating’, but relocating to any new place. As I’ve said before, I’ve only ever lived in California so, man, this is alllll so new to me. Let me add, as I’m beginning to write about this….I’m lovin’ it!! This isn’t a complaining,whining,unhappy post! I’m just trying to tell you about what this ‘early’ stage of my experience feels like. In a nutshell, it feels like… I’m living in a strange place, cuz’, well, I am! I decided to give up the familiar for the unfamiliar. The old for the new. The predictable for the unpredictable. The familiar feelings of belonging for the unfamiliar feelings of not quite belonging (Yet!). All these new things are the makings of an Adventure, which is exactly what I’m having. How would it be an Adventure if everything I was experiencing were predictable and familiar? Kind of a dull adventure if ya asked me.
I must admit , that I can’t help but wonder, to myself, if I’ll ever really feel completely at home here. The locals will likely always see a foreigner when they look at me. I wonder if I’ll always be conscious of unintentionally offending a local and hoping they don’t resent my presence here in their country. When my thoughts venture in that direction I try to hold strong to my belief that there’s power in the mindset that I ‘choose’ to embrace. In my heart, I’m home now. I love this place. I can choose to walk around worrying about what the locals feel about my presence and I can choose to embrace ‘their’ perspective of my foreignness. I can choose to agree with the native Panamanians that I don’t really belong here (not that they all think that, I’m just assuming that might be something that goes through their minds) . But that would suck! I don’t think I’ll choose to go that route. My time here so far has had some challenges and yes, there are things about living in a foreign country that takes some getting used to. But when I talk about not quite feeling as though I’m “home” here or feeling a bit out of place…I share that feeling with the knowledge that I’m in the very beginning stages of my process of adjustment. A very ‘new’ process indeed, but a process nonetheless.
When I think about my life and try to remember other different but similar periods where I’ve had to adjust to something totally different and foreign to me, I have to smile. 🙂 Because I automatically remember the outcome of those adjustment periods. The outcome of forcing myself to get out of my box has never been disappointing. The beginning of something new is often hard and a bit uncomfortable at times. I must admit that on those occasions when I’ve chosen to head down an unfamiliar road, my heart and my head are sometimes in a very different place. My head may be full of the knowledge that it’s a “good” thing…but my heart aches for the comfort of just being in and around the familiar. Uggg! Oh the ease of the familiar tugs hard trying to convince me to just ‘stay put’. “It’s so comfy and familiar right HERE”. When my self talk goes down that road I know I’m doing something that will provide me with a great growing experience in the end. An experience that causes a bit of discomfort is not necessarily a bad thing, in my mind. Growing pains are temporary and often necessary in my opinion, that is… if it’s my desire to continue to grow and evolve. And I don’t believe that there has to ever really be an end to growing and evolving. I hope someone kicks me in the butt if I ever start to think “this is it!”. I hope to always find opportunities to get out of my ‘box’ and to experience just what I’m experiencing right now in my life.
Right now in my life all is new and some things are even very unfamiliar. Right now in my life I find myself needing to adjust to many many things that aren’t what I’m used to. Right now in my life nothing is as it was, almost all of my day to day experiences are very different than they were this time last year. Right now in my life, each new day brings new experiences and new people into my life. Although new experiences aren’t always guaranteed to cause warm, fuzzy feelings, it’s important ( to me ) to figure out if I can grow from it or if I can find a way to incorporate that new, unfamiliar experience into my life and let it grow into the ‘familiar’. Many such ‘new’ things seem to enter my life everyday right now. Some I can happily embrace others, maybe not exactly “happily”, like painfully slow and not especially stable internet connectivity! Yuck! Talk about growing pains!! Let’s see…oh I can’t forget to mention Bats! And critters of the spidery, creepy crawly variety! Unfamiliar hair issues, products and haircutters, ( my fellow hairstylists, ya know what I mean !) , and the inability to eavesdrop when everyone’s speaking Espaniol!! Humph! But I would be remiss if I failed to mention all the unfamiliar things that I am embracing with glee…First, ( and you are likely sick and tired of hearing me gush about this!) All this incredible beauty of nature that surrounds me!! I just can’t get over and I can guarantee I will never tire of , the fact that I actually LIVE HERE!! Sigh! Seriously, I find it just magnificent! I’m also enjoying all the animals at my house, my two not-my-dogs-dogs! Every morning they greet me and I just love to give them love, they appreciate every pet and hug! The hummers never stop giving me spectacular shows and I just love watching the liquid in that feeder disappear and making sure I have plenty of fresh food cooling in the fridge for them ( having time to do such a thing is a treat!)! They love me!! Ahhhh! Yes, there may be times right now , when I feel a bit out of place but the trade off is that I’m learning so much and experiencing an unending amount of things that bring me joy! It’ll be fun to see what I have to say about all this unfamiliarity this time next year! I can’t say that it’s really a BAD thing…. it’s just a period of time in my life that I’ll look back on and smile, because I will have grown and changed from it and I have no doubt I’ll be so glad to have had each and every experience I’ve gone through (well, maybe not so glad about the bats and the critters!!!)
learning spanish is hard work! don’t let you’re husband’s success get you down 🙂 panama has a different accent too. so even as you learn non-accented pronunciation, you might not recognize those same words being spoken by a local here. sometimes i try listening to slow spanish new here: newsinslowspanish.com but it is still hard for me. connect with me on duolingo! i’ll send you an invite.