Welcome to May 2015’s #TrailingSpouseStories! This month, we’re talking about “Bloom Where You’re Planted.” How have we bloomed in our very itinerant way of life? Here is my take on the matter.
Becoming a trailing spouse was a frightening prospect in many ways, but it is one of the best things I’ve ever done. It’s not just the constant sunshine that has made me ‘bloom’, although having a healthy tan does help. There are many things that have contributed and, as with anything, a drastic change in lifestyle and climate will affect people differently. But I hope that my experience shows that change can often be for the better.
A move halfway across the world and the challenges of life in a foreign country have their own stresses. However, nothing I’ve experienced as a trailing spouse has come close to the stress that I was under on a constant basis as a teacher – my profession before I became a trailing spouse. The longer I am away from the classroom, the more I realise how bad it was for my health. The workload, the behaviour, the expectations and the pressure were sometimes debilitating. Becoming a trailing spouse was like suddenly gaining a work/life balance and not having to feel guilty about it; I had full days but the evenings and weekends were mine. Not every trailing spouse would want to give up their job (and I was reluctant to before I did it), but for me the chance to reinvent myself and the freedom to try something new without being under pressure to have to work (again, something I am very lucky about) really allowed me to blossom in my new life. As a new mother the balance has shifted again, but no matter how exhausted I am after an all-nighter with a teething baby there is immense job satisfaction in seeing my baby grow and become his own little person.
I’ve always been a quiet, shy person. When I moved within the UK I struggled to make friends for a long time and found relocating really difficult. Moving to Brunei was so different. Because I live in a small, constantly changing community everyone goes out of their way to be friendly to newcomers. And this has benefits both ways: it’s so much easier to make friends and get involved when you first arrive; and if you pay it forward then you get to meet new people all the time as you help them to settle in. Some you may not see much of again, but others become firm friends. There is a knack to striking up a conversation with a stranger, and practice makes perfect – especially if it doesn’t come naturally.
Removing yourself from your comfort zone can be unsettling, but it can also be a good thing. I have tried so many new things since moving to Brunei: sailing; travel; becoming chairperson of a library; performing on stage; teaching English to adults… And all of these have added to my growing confidence. Thankfully us humans are more adaptable than plants and don’t wither away the moment we are uprooted and transported to a foreign climate. My advice to anyone making a similar move? Let go of your expectations and take things as they come – you might find that you thrive on the challenges you fear now.
And in case you were wondering about the title, it’s a saying from the area in the UK I come from and one which I just had to use for this post. It shows that, no matter where you uproot yourself from, you will always carry a little bit of your home with you.
I leave you with some images of gardens from around the world and the links to the rest of the trailing spouses’ thoughts on this topic…
Clara of Expat Partner Survival talks about what it was like living somewhere so humid that growth was everywhere. An ongoing battle with mould, ants and sweat. She also talks about how life in “paradise” isn’t what it seems in Blooming Hell – Life on a Hothouse Island.
Jenny Reyes of MyMommyology say that the whole #TrailingSpouse experience is like planting seeds and hoping they’ll grow in #TrailingSpouseStories: Growing A Garden (Or So We Hope).