See each day as though it’s your first – live each day as though it’s your last.
I recently wrote in my Expat Focus column about how living in a different country changes you fundamentally. I don’t just mean you get a suntan and a new-found appreciation for insect-repellant; I’m talking about the kind of changes that are impossible to undo, so that if you were to hop in a time machine and travel back to your previous life, you’d find yourself unable to just slot back in and continue as you were. Maybe this is why some people become serial expats.
We spend our entire existence relearning what we knew instinctively as children – that if you just let your imagination run free, you’ll have a richer, more fulfilling experience. Expat life teaches you the value of liberating yourself from the shackles of stereotype and those preconceptions that colour your behaviour and perception, no matter how much you tell yourself you’re being open-minded.
Now, more than ever, I make an effort to really be present, wherever I am and whatever I’m doing. When I look at people I try to really see them, study their features and imagine their stories, not the one-dimensional image my brain wants to log for easier processing. I try to listen to what they say, instead of hearing only what validates my beliefs and tuning out the rest. The realisation, the need, to do this is in part thanks to the mindfulness techniques I picked up during a research study I participated in for CAMH – but it’s also a result of my expanding worldview. And that’s thanks to my exposure to different cultures, countries, languages and beliefs.
Experiencing the world as a cultural chameleon helps me see it through the multi-faceted kaleidoscopic lens of awe and appreciation, and increasingly that old tendency to judge and assess is replaced by acceptance and overwhelming, tear-inducing, heart-bursting gratitude.
Earlier today I came across this short film – it encapsulates what I’m trying to say beautifully. Have a tissue ready and enjoy.