Ex-Pat Living: Hey Friend, Looking for a Lighter?

There is always a lot of pressure on ex-pats to be or not be certain ways.  We’re told to blend in, oh wait, no stand out as models of progress; we’re asked to take on charitable works, no- don’t condescend or make HCNs (host country nationals – “locals”) feel like we think we are better than them.

Lit Match: Are YOU My Lighter?

Are YOU My Lighter?

“I’ve got two words for you: Be-Have”! [NB: I loved this statement, overheard in Walmart, a mother to her unruly children.]

Seriously, Society- Make up your collective mind already, please! Moving is hard enough without pressure to measure up as well.

We’ve been writing and reading a lot recently about what it means to be an expat, trying to dispel the myth that there is one holy grail of “doing it right” or risk “failing”, as if we’re not there for the job we are called to do, but rather some performance art that we must nail to achieve success.

The recent post from Anne Ergos, “The 5 Biggest Lies About Expats” exposed several myths that are common among expat experiences.

Margarita Gokun Silver’s post on “10 Things Expat Women Should Stop Doing” (don’t worry, it was meant as a positive thing) highlights just how difficult “expat-ing” can be to figure out.

Amidst all the good advice and guidance, yesterday I came across a wonderful post that had nothing at all to do with expats, yet everything to do with life.   I personally liked the simplicity and encouragement in this bit of wisdom and wanted to share it with you:

Need help staying positive?     Surround yourself with Lighters.     Lighters are the people who make you feel invincible. They light up your life and make you feel like you can take over the world.

I liked this thought, having people in my world who bring light, making my day lighter, sharing my burden and making my soul lighter- Just. By. Being. That image makes me smile…

Where Can I Get A Lighter?

Of course, knowing that you’d like to find a Lighter is not as easy as going to the internet…

Lighter search results: images

You won’t find your Lighter with an internet search…

If you’re looking for a Lighter in your life, here’s a tip: Don’t ask Microsoft. It’s clear from this search, they don’t have a clue! Technically correct, but not very useful…

When you go searching for help on where to find a Lighter, these are the answers you get.   (Personally, I don’t have a clue what an ambulance and an egg & bacon breakfast have to do with this, but there you are.)   Just as much misinformation here as about what it means to be a “good” expat.

The article I mentioned goes on to advise,

“We all have friends or family members who feed off our energy (the people who enjoy drama and negativity). We love these people, but sometimes they can be a drain on our emotional resources. I don’t want to sound harsh, but you are going to need all the positivity you have at the moment, so (if possible) keep contact with these people to a minimum… at least until you are feeling less vulnerable.

Try your best to spend time with a Lighter every day and preferably face-to-face rather than via Skype or over the phone.”

Take a look at your circle of friends and colleagues; look at the ones who really see you when you talk. Cultivate those who have a heart for others and build your network of Lighters, one by one. Treasure the good ones and give them feedback too.

So, taking my own advice, during my 10 years in Baku, I had some pretty special Lighters in my life that I would like to thank.

Matches: To all the Lighters everywhere, Thank You!

To all the Lighters everywhere, Thank You!

Girlfriends and occasionally some special guy friends, who made my life lighter and brighter. I think the support we give each other sometimes goes unsung, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less appreciated. I know there are many others that I could list, but let me start with these:

Suzi Cornnell (checkout this lovely story written by Suzi for Azerbaijan Internationalhttp://bit.ly/14kDtl0) Unfailingly supportive and loving.

Christine Cannon (now, Wokowsky) If ever there was an expat angel, Christine is it. From trying to replicate Tex-Mex from non Tex, non Mex ingredients to introducing fans at the Sunset Cafe to new dishes, she kept the homesick hounds at bay. Table 11 on Elvis Presley Blvd, was my personal piece of home.

Bill & Dominique Holbrook who pretty much became my 2nd family in Baku, and then back in the US, found just enough space on their sofa one desperate night after I returned and found my apartment uninhabitable. Despite a houseful of family guests already in every nook and cranny, they took me in. If that doesn’t light your world, I don’t know what does.

Michael & Lilia Lally- These two brought the world to their doorstep and loved them all. Anywhere in the world, and it’s like you just saw them yesterday.

Jaye Escudero, a compatriot with a heart of gold. She and Pat Gabel started the AICE group to volunteer in schools and let me join them. Sometimes I had to teach with my coat and gloves on inside the classrooms, but if those kids could be there, so could we. Those experiences brought their own kind of warmth and light.

Yelena Dontsova – our friend, an artist who captured so many feelings and friendships and preserved those moments in time.

My daughter, Caryn, with whom I have shared travel memories and more. We have supported each other through tough times and good times. I’m both proud and privileged to be in her world. Her gift of mercy lights not only my world, but also the patients she touches everyday now.

My kids, teachers, staff, co-workers, exchange students and more- Sabina Zeynolova, Zaur Jaffarov, Sabina Mammedova, Vika Mammedova, Sharif Shikhlinski, Gunel Nasibova, Fariz Ismailzade- these young professionals are the lights of their generation. Their smiles made me want to come to work everyday.

For everyone who says being an expat is hard work, it is.  For everyone who says being an expat is rewarding work, it is that too.

Candle and light, Lighters help illuminate our wayThese people have enriched my life immeasurably. No matter the mistakes I made or the cultural gaffes, “I wouldn’t take nothin’ for my journey,” as Maya Angelou put it best.

This video clip is a perfect finish to this post. D is For Discovery  ( by Margarita Gokun Silver, The Global Coach Center).

Enjoy!  And, thank you all for the lights you’re bringing to others by what you do everyday.

5 thoughts on “Ex-Pat Living: Hey Friend, Looking for a Lighter?

  1. I enjoyed reading this boost of positivism ! I found one way to meet “lighters”, is to give back to your community the positive energy that you received. This year is going to be my second year in Russia and I will be one of the hostesses for the French family support group in Moscow, “Moscou Accueil” 🙂


    • Anne- Totally agree! Putting yourself in places where others can reach out to you multiplies the opportunities and gives you chances to be someone else’s “Lighter”…

      I’d love to hear more about your group in Russia- I am hoping to return for a visit in the next year or so if at all possible. Thanks for the encouragement!


  2. Pingback: Expat Life | La Vale and Her World

  3. Pingback: Imagining Life When This Art Was Modern | Life Lessons

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