The aha moment.
The sudden crash of insight as you realize that your perspective has been too narrow even though you thought it was broad.
For me, it was a feeling of slipping into someone else’s shoes for a moment and feeling the discomfort, the pain, and the struggle that they have carried for so long. I gladly change back into my own shoes with the realization that my issues no longer felt quite so heavy as they did before.
Families in Global Transition
The Families in Global Transition Conference has been called “a reunion of strangers” because of the warmth that the organizers and long-time attendees bring with them. Whether it’s your first or fifteenth meeting, everyone is welcomed with a smile and open arms.
Nobody asks, “Where are you from?” because it’s the question every attendee dreads the most. Instead, introductions cut to the quick, and within minutes, you find yourself sharing intimate experiences that you normally would never share with someone you just met.
And this continues for three full days from 8 am until 11 pm every night. You feel like a student as you swirl around in the richness of learning about countries around the world from people who grew up in them.
The Gift of the Aha Moment
During my first conference, I was blown away by aha moment after aha moment. The connections I made instantly with some of the attendees and the humility I felt when I met people who have been living outside of their passport countries for decades—well before the Internet existed.
Listening to adult Third Culture Kids’ perspectives about their lives moving around the globe—heck, even learning who a Third Culture Kid (TCK) is—was an eye-opening experience. I decided to become very quiet to maximize my sponge-like ability to soak in all of the new perspectives around me.
My second conference was slightly different than my first. It felt more like a reunion of friends, not strangers. Women I had collaborated with in the past, followed online, and presented with the year before welcomed me with strong, warm hugs of recognition.
This felt more like a homecoming than an introduction.
The catching up was easy and connecting with new people felt like a breeze because I was less overwhelmed with the emotion of self-discovery. Already versed in the vocabulary of TCKs, ATCK, CCK, global nomad, trailing spouse, accompanying partner, etc., I felt better equipped to reach out to unfamiliar faces.
And FIGT didn’t let me down because I had more aha moments in the second conference.
Listening to Brussels bomb survivor, Sebastien Bellin, describe wants vs. needs and how much lighter life is when we let go of the wants. At the end of the day, the fatter bank account, the fancier house, the bigger car—none of those wants are fulfilling. On our deathbeds, we are going to focus on our relationships and the love we have for our family.
The best part is that the needs are light. They don’t weigh you down.
The amount of love, trust, and friendship you can stuff into your backpack is weightless and has the greatest impact on your life. Pack those things in your suitcase, and you’ll breeze through life.
He also described letting go of fear as it is only a figment of our imagination. Hearing that the survivor of a terrorist attack isn’t afraid of airports reassured me that it is pointless to allow fear to limit our worldview.
Fear blocks our ability to see the opportunities around us because we are afraid of extending beyond our comfort zones. If he can do it, why can’t I?
Before leaving on any trip away from my family, I always get a bit irrationally anxious. What if I die or my plane goes down in the Atlantic? What if something horrible happens like a terrorist attack in the airport? What if…? What if…?
Sebastien’s story slapped me out of my ridiculousness.
Why was I letting the fear of something that hasn’t happened cause me so much stress and anxiety in my life? This imaginary thing was negatively affecting the last moments I did have with my family before heading off to the airport. Why was I allowing such negativity to cloud my love?
So, I packed that in my suitcase as self-improvement homework.
::Scribbles down notes… Must learn to stop being irrationally afraid of unlikely events.::
It’s OK to be soft
Another aha moment happened shortly after arm wrestling another conference attendee. I know, I’m pretty buff, she was surprised too, but that wasn’t the point of the exercise.
We were supposed to be working together, but instead, we worked against one another. It dawned on me that perhaps my more competitive nature is limiting my ability for fruitful collaborations.
This aha moment essentially told me that I’m a jerk!
Well, no, not really, but I’m not perfect, and at that moment, I realized that I need to be better at being vulnerable. I don’t always have to be the best, the strongest, or the smartest. I can just be, and maybe that will prevent conflict in the future.
As someone who prides herself on collaborations, I realized that my competitive nature may be hurting my ability to be even more collaborative. Aha! Indeed.
Shift your perspective
Another aha moment came after the conference when reading other attendees’ perspectives in their blogs. I have not yet been able to split myself into multiple pieces in order to attend all of the sessions so reading about other lectures at the conference was the gift that kept on giving.
All in all, the conference is about making connections in person. We make so many connections online and we fool ourselves into thinking that it’s enough. Attending FIGT is the ultimate investment in yourself.
One woman stood up during a Q&A session and said, “I finally understand. My husband is a TCK and I never realized it. I always wondered why he had such a hard time fitting into Nigeria when he is Nigerian. But his dad was a diplomat and they moved around when he was a kid. He’s not really Nigerian at all. At least, not in the sense that I am.”
Her aha moment was groundbreaking for her life. Think of the paradigm shift she experienced and how it will change the way she relates to her husband.
The gift of the aha
The gift of the aha moment is priceless. It is life changing, mind altering, and can be nothing but positive.
Tears are a common sight at FIGT as lectures and conversations are loaded with emotion, loss, and self-discovery. So many people touch you at your core throughout the day that it can become utterly exhausting.
Making so many emotional connections throughout the day may deplete your physical energy but it replenishes your soul.
We return home to our families with new tools, new perspectives, and new stories to share. Having shared our stories to people who listen to and understand what we are going through is like the best therapy you never knew you needed.
FIGT never ends with a goodbye.
So, see you next time.
To read others’ perspectives and dive into the world that is FIGT, here are some blogs I know you will love.
- Expitterpattica: Families in Global Transition Conference 2017
Lucille touches on one of my biggest fears, “I am constantly worried that moving around the world is messing up my kids. How will it impact their identity, their sense of belonging, and their ability to form lasting relationships? Is being rootless setting them up for failure?”
- Brown Eyed Gal Abroad: #FIGT17NL—4 things I learned about myself
- Communicating Across Boundaries: Full heart at FIGT17
My favorite quote from that blog, “When you move a lot, you pack up your life along with your material goods. And when you pack up a life, you also pack your heart. After awhile you stop looking for belonging. It’s not because you are cynical – it’s because you recognize that belonging shifts a bit with each move and there are places and people where you will always feel more of a sense of belonging than others. So when you find yourself in a room full of kindred spirits, you catch your breath. “Is this quite real?” “If I close my eyes, will I find it’s my imagination?”
- The Other Trail: Can expats use their skills to influence the world?
- My Random Ramblinz: To Belong
Chills! “I got emotional as I realized I was about to deliver in just a few short minutes a distilling of my 36 years of life. This was my story. A story of loss, of identity, of reconciling, of integrating, of acceptance and relief in finding myself.”
- Globally Grounded: Ethiopia to the Netherlands: A ripple effect
So much richness in this blog, “The conference provided a safe space for us all to be ourselves, to drop the masks so many of us wear from day to day, to explore who we are at the deepest level and to bring something to the table.“
I am a proud member of FIGT. Click on the logo below to visit their website.