I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it means to advocate for change and foster a commitment to social justice within (and outside) your community when you’re an expat. This is not an area that’s new for me. It often occupies my mind.
I’ve worn a lot of hats in my career, but the thread that runs through whatever type of work I choose to do, is deeply rooted in two points in my life story. One – my parents’ deep commitment to community and the ways in which they instilled that in my brother and me. Two – the fact that, at heart, I’ll always be a social worker. There’s something about social work education that gets under your skin. You can’t unlearn commitment to social justice and advocacy.
The result of this worldview is that I always feel pulled between going back home and working to make a difference there, and loving our life around the world and the gifts it offers here. With the Covid-19 crisis quickly followed by the renewed focus on racial injustice and systemic oppression in the US, this pull feels all the more urgent. I frequently pause and ask myself, “What am I doing here when I could be a part of the fight to make a difference back home?”
I don’t know that I’ve discovered an answer for why we continue to live our expat life that’s stronger than simply – we like it and it works for us. In acknowledging that reality (or choice), I’m reminded though that choosing to live away from my home country cannot be an excuse for complacency.
Being mobile does not equal disconnection.
As I’ve considered this dilemma, I’m reminded that when I become paralyzed by my perceived distance from the fight – it’s the same sort of paralysis that exists when you view social justice as a battle fought in someone’s else’s neighborhood, home, school or hospital. The belief that we, as expats, are too far away to effect real change is a myth. In believing that story, we excuse ourselves from actively committing to the change that needs to happen within our own globally mobile communities and we fall victim to the belief that there is only way to bring about a more equal and just world.
Seeing the tendency to become stuck in these myths in my own life, has inspired me to think differently about the ways in which I can contribute to greater social justice and equality from wherever I am in the world. That has meant looking at the definition of community more broadly. It has meant speaking up and getting involved in places where I may have become apathetic to change in the past. It also has come to mean contributing financially when it’s not possible to show up in person. I’m also focusing on learning opportunities for myself and my family.
What I’m finding when I engage in this way – becoming more mindful, more creative and more open – is that the confidence and energy gained from moving forward (even from a perceived distance) builds upon itself. And, honestly, this is pretty much always the case with whatever we do. We feel afraid, or confused, or lost and then we take a step and clarity and sound footing fall into place.
I’m noticing that a lot of expats are in this place right now. I see it within my community in-person and online. Moreover, in response to the uncertainty of the past few months, these are questions are coming up a lot in my coaching sessions with my expat and globally mobile clients.
What are you doing to bring about change?
I’m so curious about how this is showing up for you. What are you feeling called to do in the fight for a more just world? What does this mean for you in your expat life? How do you get creative and open so that you can make a difference – especially during the times when it feels easier to keep doing what you’ve always done?
I’d love to hear about what this looks like for you. Share your thoughts in the comments or get in touch. If you’re interested in using coaching as a means to move forward, I’d love to help you sort through your vision for change and support you in taking those first steps. My Take Your Leap Program is the perfect place to start something new. If you’d like support in learning how to communicate more mindfully and with greater self-awareness, compassion and insight – consider joining my Finding Your Way * program in September.
* A portion of your enrollment fee for Finding Your Way will go to support leadership training programs in predominately Black communities in the United States. Find out more information on the Finding Your Way page linked above.