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  • Writer's pictureliatnetanel

Two Years Abroad with 3 Important Life Lessons

My “relocation anniversary” took place in November. However, I feel like it’s still October 7th, with 131 days that were added. The past 4 months were an ongoing battle of extreme emotions from despair and fear, through anger and loneliness. While writing this post, I’m trying to summarize 2 years of living abroad but everything is through the lens of the past 4 months. In parallel to witnessing antisemitism, ignorance and avoidance, I had some breakthrough realizations that I noticed and want to focus on them in this blog. 


1.There is always a trade-off - in his podcast, Mark Manson describes the cultural differences that create frustrations. But, the things that frustrate us, many times, hold within them the beautiful values which we take for granted. For example, the Israeli culture is extremely “tribal”. Your life and decisions are EVERYBODY’s business, and they will keep giving you advice and feedback whether you ask for it or not. Because people are so close, elements of reciprocity, collectiveness and caring for people you’ve never met are behaviours that are special and unique to the Israelis. Living abroad for 2 years has given me a new perspective on where I live now and where I come from. This perspective makes one realize that there is always a trade-off. When people are less involved and provide you space, you might feel lonelier. If you don’t dig deep, you might not face your problems and seek for solutions.

2. Add a dot-dot-dot – I recently read the book “You’re Awesome” by Neil Pasricha (highly recommended!). One of the chapters that caught my attention was the chapter focusing on adding an ellipsis (…) to every frustration/ assumption/ disappointment you encounter. I tend to think and speak in exclamation marks. Hence: “I didn’t close that big deal”, “I haven’t found the love of my life”; “I’m not a mom”. By adding the ellipsis to each sentence, one moves from a “determined with no flexibility” mindset to a “long term and growth mindset”. Hence “I haven’t done X… yet”: “I haven’t closed that big deal… yet”, “I haven’t found the love of my life… yet”, “I’m not a mom… yet”. I realized that when I lead with this mindset, I turn the anxiety I feel into hope and motivation to keep on trying until the “yet” will become “I did it”. 

3. Gratitude and generalization – as I wrote in the beginning of the blog, the past few months were filled with pain and sadness. On a personal level, it was a bad mix of national pain and some family tragedy. Some days I struggled to get out of bed and function. Those times led me to focus on gratitude. From the smallest things like a good cup of coffee in the morning, all the way to the big things like my health and being lucky to have a strong and supportive circle of friends. In parallel to focusing on gratitude, I’ve found out that when in agony and fear, the automatic instinct is to put people “in boxes”. Every reaction of one person, immediately leads to saying: “all of them are like that”. But by doing so I felt the lack of fairness towards those who were sensitive, who saw my pain, who reached out and checked in. This lesson is an ongoing one as the easiest thing is to generalize and address people according to their background, religion, culture. However, that narrows one’s ability to see beyond the shallow assumptions and flat categories. 


Moving forward here are my 2 cents

I think the beauty and challenge lies within the understanding that people, places and situations can have different shades. When I manage to keep a flexible and open-minded approach towards challenges, the journey towards solving them becomes a bit easier. All those 3 lessons are still work in progress. I haven’t fully embraced them… yet :)

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