Advice: You Can’t Go Wrong

expat blog challege, expat issues

Very happy to be reconvening with my fellow expat blog challengers for the first of our monthly writing prompts. For March, the topic is “advice.” 

Decision made. Onward!

Decision made. Onward!

I have an unproductive habit of sometimes letting my mind wander over the past – What-iffing. It’s not a melancholy thing, just a curiosity  to play out imagined outcomes of taking the other fork in the road at pivotal moments in my life. What if I had gone to that big state school instead of the tiny women’s college? What if I had majored in Early Childhood Education like I was originally planning? What if I had accepted that full-ride assistantship in St Louis for grad school instead of deciding to pay full tuition to go to Brooklyn? What if I had turned down that Lit Manager job in Florida and stayed in New York, instead? What if I’d not answered Partner-in-Crime’s email on an online dating site (I almost didn’t!)?

What-iffing always leads me to the same place – if I’d done any of these things differently, I wouldn’t have had the adventure of living overseas, I wouldn’t be married to the best guy I’ve ever known, and I wouldn’t have my Hushpuppy. So, though I may have faced some occasional hardships with the choices, I’m glad I made them. I’m not a fatalist: I don’t believe there’s “one person for everyone” or that things are “meant to be,” so the exercise of What-iffing is interesting to me knowing that at any one of those forks, my life could be so different – different economic status, different lifestyle, different husband or no husband, a different kid brought into this world.

What-iffing often reminds me of the most important piece of advice I’ve ever received. Over sub sandwiches and life transition conversation one day, my friend Nick, who has a good 20 years more life experience than me, said something so simple to me, “there are no ‘right’ choices, there’s only what you do with the choices you make.”

Through the following years, this advice has been so freeing to me. I don’t take it literally that there are no wrong choices. Breaking laws, hurting people, taking up smoking (I presume Hushpuppy will be able to read this blog one day) – those are wrong choices. There are people in this world who habitually make pretty terrible choices. But in the scope of regular life choices – this job or that job, to marry this person or not, to spend a lot of money on a dream vacation or save it for a rainy day, used or new car, oatmeal or toast – within these choices, you do the best you know how and then you move forward with a positive attitude and determination to make it work.

This is pretty solid advice to carry in your head, as an expat. I doubt there are many of us expats who haven’t once thought, “why am I here?” or “I’ve made a huge mistake.” What a powerful feeling if your next thought can be, “no, actually, there was no way to mess up the decision to move here or not. And now, I’ve decided to be here,that is valid, and what can I do with this decision?”,

For me, this advice has been the most powerful in the throes of making a decision. Move to Australia or not? There’s happiness, and at some point some pain, on either path off that choice. I’m a “go with my gut” person because I believe my gut is actually a pretty evolved part of me, sending its signals based on a lot of prior evidence and experiences. So, I do what my gut says, and release myself into the knowledge that I can’t choose incorrectly, and that I’m in charge of doing something grand once I’ve chosen.

8 thoughts on “Advice: You Can’t Go Wrong

  1. fb407cf4-a9d7-11e3-aa8e-000bcdcb8a73

    The advice is awesome and the way you have incorporated it into your life is beautiful to behold. I like this whole blog post.

    Except just one little quibble. What-iffing isn’t — or doesn’t have to be — unproductive. It’s just the first step in story-telling. What if I’d gone down that road? What if someone like me, but with slightly different personality traits had gone down that road? What if someone quite different from me had gone down that road? what’s down that road? What’s down the road that forks at the end of the fork? What’s–what’s?

    Keep what-iffing. I do believe it’s a good exercise for the mind.

  2. Samantha H

    Sounds like some pretty great advice! I often get caught up in what-iffing myself – but, it really is the best to make the most of the decisions we have made. 🙂

  3. Christie

    I’m a big “what-iffer” myself, so I appreciated this post. Just today I told R, “Sure go ahead and pursue that job opportunity in Chicago.” It could be the next big regret, the next big adventure, or it could turn out to be nothing. The thing is, no matter what I responded, there would be a potential “what-if.” So I agree that time is more productively spent making the most of decisions that have already been made.

  4. Kelli

    For a long time, I really hated and regretted our decision to move to Shanghai… and then I realized that without going to Shanghai, I wouldn’t have ended up in Guatemala, I wouldn’t be back in Bahrain, I might not have the Ladybug or Sprout, there are friends I wouldn’t know… so it wasn’t a great place but I have made peace with it. Oh yeah, I probably wouldn’t know how to knit. And that would be tragic 🙂

  5. Erica Enriquez-Clemente

    “There’s only what you do with the choices you make” …. I think that’s very good advice, in any situation in life. The act of what-ffing just leads you to think in the past, rather than focus on the now, and how you can move forward from your place in life right this very minute.

    In terms of what-iffing being part of the expat experience, I can only hope Australia is welcoming and open to expats, and that the move to Australia being hard at first is due of the transitioning phase. My husband, an American expat, experienced this when he first moved to Sydney, but has now come to call Sydney his second home.

    I’m not an expat, but I have definitely had moments where I’ve asked myself “why am I here?” and scolded myself: “I’ve made a huge mistake!” too. But then I think to myself that making decisions, right ones and wrong ones, are the only ways to move forward, so we just have to accept the choices we make, see how they play out and go from there …

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on what-iffing, very good read on a Saturday as I reassess my week’s decisions! xxx

    1. Cristin Post author

      What a lovely comment – thank you!
      I’ve found Australia very welcoming, and agree that the bumps are just the regular ones anyone would have with encountering a new place. Sydney is definitely my second home, as well.
      I don’t think there’s anything wrong in a little what-iffing, as long as it doesn’t hold you back from accepting and enjoying the choices you have made.

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