Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Pursuit of Happiness



I just wanted to wish the good ole United States a big Happy Birthday! I've spent much of the last year focusing on that certain unalienable right listed in the Declaration of Independence as the Pursuit of Happiness. During our home visit in Texas, many people have asked me how I like living in Malaysia. It's been one great big vacation for me. (My kids still have school, and hubby goes to work, so they will probably not make the same claim as me.) I explore the streets of a historic city, learn about a different culture, and try out new food every week.

It's been a wonderful, stimulating year, and I'm so glad we decided to accept this expat assignment. Last July, I wasn't 100% sure it was a good idea, but I went ahead anyway. I often tell my kids that sometimes they can't control a situation, but what they can control is their reaction. I guess this past year I decided to be happy. That is the reaction I chose. Over the course of my life, I've had my low points, and I know that choosing happiness sometimes isn't necessarily easy or even possible. But this isn't one of those times.

There are supposedly four stages of culture shock according to my reputable friends at Wikipedia.
  • Honeymoon phase - (0-3 months) Life abroad feels like an extended vacation
  • Negotiation phase - (3-6 months) Excitement gives way to anxiety, frustration and homesickness
  • Adjustment phase - (6-12 months) Life begins to feel "normal" as you become accustomed to the new country and negative feelings decrease
  • Mastery phase - (12+ months) You participate fully and feel comfortable in the host country while keeping many traits of your original culture

I figure that I am either still in the Honeymoon phase or that I perhaps skipped entirely over the Negotiation phase and went straight to the Adjustment phase. To be honest, I wasn't very supportive when my husband told me about the expat offer. I worked my way through all the anxiety and frustration before we even left Texas. I'm not quite sure when things changed, but I know I boarded the international flight to Malaysia feeling slightly apprehensive but mostly excited.

That's when I decided to pursue happiness. I knew that embracing my new country and culture is what would make this expat stay the most meaningful for me. I decided to find joy instead of frustration in the differences. I intentionally cut back on volunteering as much as I did in the U.S.A. so that I could free myself up for discovery. I committed myself to traveling on long weekends so that we could take advantage of our new location. I surrounded myself with like-minded, positive people while also trying to remain sensitive to the feelings of those who are less in love with expat life.

I also decided to pick up an old childhood hobby which had fallen by the wayside due to the demands of work and motherhood. I started writing this blog to share my adventures with the world. Thanks for reading this. You have made me so happy.




9 comments:

  1. Hi Michele - great post. I would love to use this in my blog. Would you mind guest blogging for Penang Momma? :-)

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    1. I would love to guest blog for you.

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  2. Nice post - sometimes we forget that happiness is a choice. It's great to read posts that remind us of that.

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    1. Reading your blog is always great fun. I love vicariously enjoying your dining adventures.

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  3. I enjoy reading all your posts. Having friends to go through this journey with also makes me happy!

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    1. When I first met you, I was struck by how positive you are about the whole expat experience.

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  4. Thank YOU for sharing your adventures, Michele! You inspire me to take more risks and give up my idea of "safety" in exchange for more excitement and growth.

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    1. I have been surprised by how great an experience this has been. It's almost hard to believe how negative I was about the idea originally.

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  5. Love your attitude! You're right, sometimes choosing happiness sadly just isn't an option, but when it is, we should at least try.

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