My Year in India and What it Taught Me

0
74
Taken in Triund, India
Taken in Triund, India

It was a year ago yesterday that I arrived in India to work. As an expat, I remember feeling anxious, and overwhelmed. I had big aspirations but even bigger fears. I was afraid of failure and being alone. I felt out of place and insecure.  One year later I’m still feeling anxious and overwhelmed, but for entirely different reasons.  It has been a year of growth for me. Travel to foreign countries has a huge impact on a person and working in a foreign country is even harder. We learn about the world, and we learn about ourselves. I will always be grateful to India for teaching me (or reminding me of) these 10 important lessons.

  1. Love doesn’t have a color or age: I had no desire or intention to fall in love in India. It was the furthest thing from my mind. But love happens in its own time. You can run but you can’t hide.  My boyfriend is an amazing man and I feel so blessed to have him in my life. It doesn’t matter to us that he is brown and I am white. Our age difference doesn’t concern us either. Oh sure, it causes other people to judge and question, but we don’t give a damn. We are happy and working towards a viable future together. He is having some troubles getting a passport, which probably means we will have to unfortunately spend some time apart, but true love finds a way.
  2. I’m okay alone: My first four month is India were brutal. I have never felt more alone in my life. I cried myself to sleep many nights. I missed my family, my friends, my dogs and my home. Somehow though, in those moments of intense silence and loneliness, I found a strength within myself that I didn’t know I had. I learned to be comfortable alone. Sometimes it’s nice to live by your own schedule. You can eat what you want whenever you want. You can sleep in the middle of the bed or on the couch. You can watch your favorite shows and listen to your own music. You can sing at the top of your lungs off key and no one cares. I’ve learned that I don’t need external validation and I can care for myself, even in the darkest of hours.
  3. Resilience and coping skills: This year in India has been the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I wanted to quit. Someone somewhere was always judging me, misunderstanding me or blaming me for things outside of my realm of control. There were times that I felt horribly depressed but through it all I kept repeating one phrase, “This too shall pass.” The fact is, sadness does pass. Happiness does return. However awful you feel at that very moment, you will smile again. During such dark moments I focused on self-care and doing things that made me feel better. I would take a long hot bubble bath, listen to some upbeat music, watch a funny movie or skype a friend. The littlest things can make a huge difference.
  4. A sense of humor is vital: Laughter is a strong medicine regardless of color or culture. During times of conflict, confusion, misunderstanding and project difficulties, laughter brought us all together again. It is a common denominator for all people. Laughter reduces stress and bridges gaps. So when all else fails, don’t forget to smile and keep your sense of humor.

    Getting Funky at Chandra Taal Lake in India
    Getting Funky at Chandra Taal Lake in India
  5. Patience: It’s never been a strength of mine. I’m a type A personality. I want it all and I want it now. I’m always pushing for results and demanding immediate action. Perhaps that is what makes me a good program manager. Still, things happen slowly in India. The smallest things, like shipping a box or buying a mobile phone often become huge hassles. Their “processes” are incredibly slow and frustrating, if they exist at all. I’ve had to learn to just let go at times. It’s hard for a control freak like me, but it’s necessary in order to maintain sanity in the middle of constant chaos.

    Buffalo cart causing a traffic jam in India
    Buffalo cart causing a traffic jam in India
  6. Illiteracy and poverty are evil brothers: 26% of India is illiterate. What’s worse is that the people that need education the most don’t have access to it. The real cause of such illiteracy is poverty. The poorest Americans would look like spoiled brats to the poorest Indians. Poverty means they may have not eaten for days, or they can’t remember the last time they spent the night indoors. They don’t have shelter or any other options. As a result, children often have to work or beg instead of going to school. If you don’t go to school you can’t learn a career or hear about opportunities. All you know is your daily need to survive.
  7. In India, family means everything: Americans could stand to learn a few things from Indians about strengthening family ties. Perhaps it is because survival is so difficult, or because they live multi-generational. Whatever the reason, family is the top priority for most Indians. I would like to think that there could be some sort of balance between being dependent on your family and having the ability to take care of yourself. But in India, if Mom or Nanna needs you, you drop everything to help.
  8. We all need to work together to save our planet: I know I have pissed off more than a few Indian people by making an issue of the pollution and trash over here. The fact is, regardless of our race, there is only one human race. It does no good to clean up one country if the neighboring country just continues to emit pollution into the air that cuts our ozone and destroys our planet. Other nations and their people should do what they can to reach out to neighboring countries more and save our mother earth.

    Sunrise in India filtered by pollution
    Sunrise in India filtered by pollution
  9. Seek first to understand: As an expat I have been harshly judged and misunderstood for cultural differences, gender, skin color and age. It doesn’t feel good. So I’ve learned to be more tolerant of differences. I’ve learned to seek first to understand before asking to be understood (Habit 5 in Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.)
  10. I’ve learned to blog: My first blog was a year ago today. I posted it for fun. I just re-read it and I’m embarrassed by it. I didn’t know anything about SEO, meta tags, featured images or sub headings. Since then, my blog has evolved into a business. I am now earning an income from it and getting free travel as a result of my efforts. It’s a good thing too, because next month my job is over and my blog may very well save my ass. But what I’ve learned is this: Don’t let your inexperience keep you from trying something new. Bite off more than you can chew and some day it will become easy to swallow. I accepted this job in India because I felt a calling that I didn’t understand at the time. Little did I know that I would find the love of my life and a new career. Don’t be afraid to follow your heart and dream big!

NO COMMENTS

LEAVE A REPLY