I like to trawl the web for other expat bloggers. I like to see what they are doing, what adventures they are having, their writing styles etc. Sounds kind of stalkerish but I’m genuinely curious about other people’s cultural experiences and lives. I like to see what we have in common, broaden my network and like and follow those who write in a way that resonates with me.
I came across an expat blog written by a Mum living in Dubai http://mommyindubai.com/tag/urban-foxes/. She has a beautiful page and I was looking for ideas for our upcoming trip to Dubai. I hadn’t visited in 6yrs and the development over this time has been phenomenal. I started reading her posts and came across an entry about why she had decided to pack up her life and leave Dubai. Aside from the terrifying driving, which I could relate to, the part that got me was that she never felt like she fit in. She never felt fancy enough, and never felt like keeping up with the joneses was worth more than remaining true to herself, something I respect and appreciate. She felt like her blog didn’t portray a fake enough reality, almost a requirement for a Dubai Mum blogger. She tried to portray an honest, genuine exposé of her life but couldn’t compete with the photo shopped versions of reality. She called herself ‘too simple.’ It made me feel bad for her and all I could think was if I had known her we would have been friends.
When I lived in the Philippines there were times when I felt like I didn’t ‘fit in.’ From the passive aggressive ‘didn’t I ever like dressing up’ because I wore jeans and t-shirts all the time, to my child being teased because we flew economy (yes, that’s right). I struggled with finding my place because the value that was placed on the outfits you wore, the parties you attended, how often you left your kids with the maid and the holidays you took was something I couldn’t relate to or had any desire to conform to. I was most certainly on the bottom of the social ladder. I flew economy, took my kids to dinner and GASP, sat at the same table as them!
I was at school one day waiting for my son to finish and all the mother’s had got into a ‘one up each other’ conversation about where they were spending the summer. One of them had actually spent thousands of dollars on tickets to go see the Lion King in London. We were living in a country where people earn less than 10USD a day and here she was proudly broadcasting this to the group. I know its a Broadway spectacular, but seriously? In my opinion it was a ginormous waste of money for a 2 and 8 year old. This women was by no means rich, but in terms of doing the most stupid thing to give the perception that her life was way more glamorous than ours, she had taken the cake. I couldn’t help but be judgey and I shouldn’t have because most of the time the one upper isn’t trying to make anyone feel bad, they just want to feel better about their own life or themselves.
My holiday plans, much like my simple self, were simple. I was just going home to visit my family. The deafening silence that followed my announcement quickly ended the conversation. Maybe they felt sorry for me? I’ll never know. I never viewed my interactions as a competition and never felt like I needed to compete. My friend said to me once that she liked being around me because I was unashamedly myself. I was a little taken aback at first by her comment until I realised it was a good thing to march to the beat of your own drum. Don’t get me wrong I’ve had nights where I’ve left events because I’ve been socially snubbed. There have been tears and times when I’ve wished that I could fit. No one wants to be left out. You think if you could just be a bit more glamorous, self obsessed and a shameless social climber maybe you would belong. It hurts, its unnecessary and no one wants to feel like they are in the lead role of mean girls. When you grow up you don’t think you will ever have to deal with the petty nonsense usually reserved for teenage girls or question sacrificing your integrity for the sake of belonging. For whatever reason it never disappears.
I subscribe to a lot of journals and most conveniently one popped up in my email while I was writing this. It was about non-conformist behaviour threatening social groups. Those who are different, or choose to march to the beat of their own drum were more likely to be punished, ridiculed or even rejected by other group members. The real cracker though? It said that acting in a non-conformist way is less threatening for highly intelligent people. I can only conclude from this that me and the other blogging Mum have been exposed to a lot of unintelligent people over the last few years (I’m laughing out loud right now).
What’s the point of all this? Don’t be afraid to march to the beat of your own drum. Don’t stop being who you are because you don’t fit in with the group, your clothes aren’t designer enough or you hair isn’t blonde enough. Don’t let anyone make you feel less than you are worth. You tribe is out there you just haven’t found them yet. It’s ok just to be you.