Updated: Jul 15, 2020
"Feeling sorry for yourself, and your present condition, is not only a waste of energy but the worst habit you could possibly have" - Dale Carnegie.
This quote struck me one day, as I realized how much self-pity party I have thrown over the last few months due to my situation as an expat spouse. Questions such as ‘Why is this happening to me?’ or ‘How unfair this situation is’ or ‘Why can’t things just be easier’ were lingering around my head, days and nights, days and months, draining energy as I try to move forward with my life. Growing up as an overachiever, efficiency has always been on my top vocabulary list; every activity and idea was navigated to optimize the limited amount of time I have in my life. Having constant reviewing and reflecting on my goals and achievements -- how then I managed to beautifully screw a portion of my prime age time to go to waste?
The ‘Expat Spouses Have A Lot of Time’ Illusion
I mentioned to a fellow expat spouse how empowering the above quote is for me, and her first response was, “What do you mean a waste of energy and a waste of time? If it is, we are probably the first person who has the most energy and time in the world.”
A few months ago, I couldn't agree more with her proposition. Expat spouses are often being seen as having no demanding activities, thus the amount of freedom they have is assumed to be limitless. I probably used to be one of those people with a similar mindset until I had to be an expat spouse myself. Oftentimes, we hear people tell us as well about how jealous they are of all the time we have in the world and that we can do anything we want with all those luxuries. In contrast, my feeling was the opposite, that what I did with all those times was never enough; I didn't have a work permit, a job, or a salary. Don’t get me wrong; I did do more than a number of productive things: updating my portfolio, learning new software, making albums, learning a lot of new recipes, traveling, reading, and studying, but it didn’t feel enough. My mind kept telling me, “I should have managed to do more A, B, C, top it up with a G and Z, but I didn’t” -- and I started to understand why.