25 January 2013


Have you ever thought about what you would do if you could do it all over again? What about right now? If you could pause your life and completely change directions, what would you do?

I am sure we have all been there at one point or another. For an expat wife, it takes three to six months for the ideas to start formulating.

“I would like to open a specialty retail boutique.”

“I am going to get my master’s degree.”

“I want to open a coffee shop / specialty bakery.”

“I want to go to culinary school.”

“I want to be a writer.”

“I’m going to open my own company.”

“I want to open a cupcake store.”

“I’m going to be a pilates instructor.”

“I might become a yoga instructor.”

“I want to be an American.” (That one was Nicola’s, of course.)

Megan, Nic and I have all been through what feels like a hundred different ideas for what we could do with our lives, either on a temporary basis or potentially long term. Megan articulated this today, stating that her husband must hate her for all of the things she says she is going to do. “I have a thousand ideas,” she said. “I get it,” I agreed because I, too, have stated to many people just what I think I should do….and three weeks later have yet another idea.

I was thinking about how crazy we sounded but then I stopped and thought about how nice it was for us to have this time in our lives when we are not following a designated track. We for so long have been on a one-track life whereby we are born, grow up, go to school, graduate, go to more school, graduate and maybe go to more school, eventually get a job in the field of our study and set off on a career that will enable us to grow and lead and mentor others to be just like us. Then, somewhere around the age of 28, we were married and had husbands who got jobs in a far away land called Really Far Away and someone hit the Big Pause button.

Suddenly, life as it was (family nearby, friends established, careers on the right escalation path, knowledge of where to buy things and cars to transport the things we buy), and then it wasn’t anymore. Our homes were packed, our things were donated, sold and stored, and we boarded planes to a place where we knew not a soul. We had a chance to start fresh and, after some time, found ourselves pondering, “Do I want to be the person that I was three months ago, or do I want to be someone different?”

I can’t tell you how many times I tell people that I wish I knew in my early years of high school which really cool jobs would be available. Until Bones I did not know that I could be an anthropologist who solves murders by looking at human bones. When I was 15 I did not know about the person who tests consumer products or the one who tests ice cream flavors. Did I know that Penn State offered an ice cream making degree? No! What about the lady on Person of Interest who made a butt load of money solving problems for people? Sure she ended up needing a former butt-kicking government agent to protect her from the people who wanted to kill her but it seemed like a good job up until then.

“I told Troy I wanted to go to culinary school to learn about gluten-free alternatives,” said Megan, who manages celiac disease with a gluten-free diet. “Just because I have been teaching for seven years doesn’t mean I have to teach for the rest of my life.” And she is absolutely correct.

We expat wives who gave up our careers, postponed our desire for children and moved to an exotic island in the Far East suddenly do not have anything stopping us. We are not working (for the most part), we have no kids (though Megan and Nicola have pets), we have no immediate need to jump back on the predestined path. We have the whole world (or, at least Asia) and only our minds to explore.

So we compare our ideas, encourage each other to take chances, listen to each other complain when taking a chance leads to obtaining a master’s degree and then being paid really well to pack boxes and inventory cupboards and continue to think about what it actually is that we want to do when we grow up, now that we have the opportunity to review our life experiences to date and seriously evaluate the rest of our lives.

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