Every few months, Nexpat will chronicle another returning expat's journey. This first installation of interviews Mindy Warguez was kind enough to provide me with her return journey. She provides a thoughtful, thought-provoking, and generously selfless review of her challenges and what she discovered upon her return. I hope it provides inspiration to you all, as it did to me.
I met Mindy in the Philippines a couple of years ago. Mindy was stationed there with her husband, who was deployed to the Philippines for a couple of years in a program that is quite unique in his organization. Mindy and her three kids were planning to return to rural North Carolina and it was clear Mindy was thinking about the challenges, but also, with her outgoing personality ready to explore something new.
What was the hardest thing about returning to the U.S. and why?
Feeling so different from people that I once felt very connected to. It was difficult to relate to friends and families’ non-serious complaints and problems, and it was hard to not have someone that could relate to my family’s experiences and me. I felt very isolated, disconnected, and far away from home, even though technically I was home. The innocent comments from friends and family assuming I “must be so glad to be out of that developing country” were hurtful, and people could not understand why I was not overly celebrating our return “home”. It was a tough process to work through.
What was your least expected hurdle upon returning? How did you overcome it?
Missing the “everyday adventure” of living in a different country. As much as I rolled my eyes at the ridiculous traffic, funny phrases that made no sense, or searching 3-4 different stores to find a certain recipe item, I now really miss the “everyday adventure” of it. I know that when I need something, I’m going to drive to the store, park with no hassle, find the item on the shelf, pay, and be back home in 30 minutes or less. No inappropriate conversations about how tall or large I am, nobody trying to convince me to pay them $3 dollars to wash the car while I’m inside, nobody telling me that tomato sauce is the same thing Taco Sauce, and nobody trying to sell me coat racks from the middle of the highway. I miss saying, “Well that just happened!” or telling the family at the end of the day, “You’ll never guess what happened to me today…”
What was the best thing about coming back?
1) CONVENIENCES!! Being able to blaze through my to-do list with lightening speed.
2) SEASONS!! Summer BBQ’s, Playing outside in the fall, watching Superbowl Sunday on a Sunday, watching the kids experience their first snow fall, and now opening the windows for the fresh spring air.
What was the best piece of advice you received? From whom or where?
Actually from you! (Nextpat) You told me, “If I’m not finding what I need, then I should work to create it.” This empowered me to stop thinking like a victim and instead start setting some goals to be more proactive about my current situation. It became my motto for 2017 and is plastered above my “goal board”. It has motivated me, in 3 short months, to start a consulting LLC, an exercise program, and join a newly created volunteer group in our area. Not only has it made a night and day difference for me, it is useful parenting advice for my kids to grow up with. They see my board and it empowers them to take control of their goals and the steps they are taking to achieve them.
What do you wish you had done in the process differently, why?
I wish I would have shared how I was feeling with my husband earlier instead of assuming I was alone in what I was thinking/feeling. One day I stubbed my toe on the sofa and ended up crying for hours. Once I let everything out and told him how I was feeling, he completely understood and was feeling a lot of the same. Both of us had been holding back from the other in an effort to “not make this transition any harder”. In hindsight, we were both suffering, not sharing, and not allowing each other the support we really needed (and had). I had an ally/partner all along that I never turned to. It probably would have made a big difference for both of us, had I opened up earlier.
Tell us about your favorite female for Women's History Month - who is she, what did she do, why is she your favorite?
This is, by far, the hardest question you’ve asked. Had you asked me a year ago, my solid, no-hesitations answer would be Maya Angelou. I get the chills with every poem or interview. Her calm, grounded energy is soothing and I strive for that type of wisdom. She’s mastered her thoughts; she’s a keen observer of her heart’s reaction to the world and all in it, and so beautifully captures unspeakable, fleeting emotions in very few words.
And then, in walks Michelle Obama and her awesome, still-gives-me-chills speech in New Hampshire about the hurtful and hateful language towards and about women. I’m a fan, hands down. That is the strength, grace, and the heart of courage that I want to recognize in my daughters and myself some day.