by Melinda Gallo

Being an expat is a balancing act

The first five months of this year have gone by like a bolt of lightening. I almost canít believe itís almost June. I have been trying to balance my life between Paris and Florence even though at times I have felt more like a Ping-Pong ball bouncing back and forth. Although I am completely settled in each place, I usually need at least one full day to adjust to the language, culture, and rhythm of the city. The double-expat life can be a little exhausting at times; however, it has taught me about the necessity of keeping my life balanced.

In January, I began writing a book for expats. The idea came to me two years ago, but I didnít have time to start it. Honestly, I think I needed the double-expat life to fully understand the challenges we encounter as expats. When this year began, I made a concerted effort to focus more on my writing. And for the first couple of months, I did. I wrote daily for a couple of different writing projects while I worked fulltime as a technical writer. Then, I lost my momentum and I panicked. My writer friends told me that I needed to set my writing projects aside, which I initially did unwillingly. One girlfriend convinced me by saying, ďGive your book more time to breathe.Ē She was right: I was holding on too tightly.

Now, one month later, I realize that her advice was correct. Itís almost as if I needed to be go from one extreme to the other to find my balance again. I now understand that I needed more time to let the ideas bubble up instead of trying to pluck them off the vine before they are ripe.

Oddly enough when I was off the ďwritingĒ wagon, I was approached by a couple of expat websites to write articles. I found the synchronicity quite amusing. The moment I didnít want to write about being an expat, opportunities to write about expats came to me.

I appreciate the past few months because I learned once again that my lifeónot just my writing life, but also my expat lifeóis a balancing act. A satisfying life isnít one in which we hit our stride so we can coast through each day without encountering any problems. It is about being able to keep a positive attitude so that when a problem arises, we approach it with lightheartedness. We must always be flexible. Every day, we learn when to hold on and when to let go. The quicker we adjust; the ďeasierĒ life seems to be.

I think as expats our lives are filled with even more challenges because we choose to live in a place that is not our native home. We are constantly confronted with stumbling blocks while we navigate our daily lives. Balance is an art form that we as expats must master. Our ability to fit in vacillates while we settle into our new homes. One moment we are at ease in our expat life and the next moment we are not.

You donít need to reach some supreme state of equilibrium to have an enriching expat experience. You must instead try to be as supple as possible and let your balance come to you instead of trying to force it. Itís always in letting go that the rewards flow to you.

Share your comments for this blog post on the Living in Florence's Facebook page. Grazie!