Being an Immigrant Has Helped Me Thrive
6 things I have learned from my global wanderings.
In modern society, we are taught to see ourselves as distinct from the world around us. But we are not separate from what we see ‘out there’. We are inextricably entwined at a social, emotional and, even, subatomic level with the world around us. We are one thread woven into the fabric of the world.
Therefore, not one of us can thrive without having a healthy connection with the world around us and those who live alongside us.
Like many New Zealanders, I have come to regard the planet as my home. I have spent more than a third of my life as an immigrant, living in countries such as Denmark, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia.
Being an immigrant can be isolating, frustrating and confronting, but my varied experiences, living as a legal alien, have taught me valuable lessons that allow me to thrive.
Here are six things I have learned as a serial immigrant:
1. It’s ok to hang out with people like you
Immigrants are often vilified for gathering together, but my experience has shown me that flocking together is a necessary human condition. Gathering is especially natural and essential when you are in a foreign land and daily life is slightly more unfamiliar, challenging and stressful. It doesn’t matter where you are from, having people around you who share your humor, language, lifestyle and/or much of your history allows you a place where you are understood. Where you belong. Where everything feels comfortable and easy. However, it is equally vital to understand that …
2. It’s character, not culture, that makes people good (or not)
This is one of the most important and apparent things I have learned: in every culture, faith and community there are truly good people and there are those who act like a**holes˜. Good people use their learned beliefs and habits to amplify goodness; a**holes twist their learned beliefs and habits into weapons. Learning to judge others on the content of their character is a vital element in well-being. It allows you to see beyond inherited prejudices and limitations, avoid harmful people (even if they share your background) and seek goodness in any situation.
˜Of course, this is a gross simplification as we are all part-goodness, part-a**hole. It’s just the ratio that differs.
3. Normal doesn’t exist
There are billions of different ways to view oneself, life and the world. The way you have been taught to view life may feel familiar, but is not normal. In fact, statistically, your version of normal is probably incredibly rare! Experiencing life through the eyes of different cultures has allowed me to express myself more authentically. I have learned that I don’t have to share the same beliefs, mindset and behaviors as the people around me. I can be me, even if I appear ‘abnormal’ or ‘different’. We’re all different. Which also means that …
4. Chasing perfection is a waste of time
Many of us have come to believe that there is a perfect way of doing, being or looking, and we (unconsciously or consciously) spend a lot of time conforming to fit this paradigm. We often change who we are to get as close as possible to an inherited ideal. But I have discovered that what’s perfect in one culture can be abhorrent in another. So what, exactly, are we chasing?
5. You get out of life what you put in
If you want to live in a kinder world, you have to practice kindness. If you want your point of view to be understood, you must respect the points of views of others. If you want to be happy, you must be open to new avenues of happiness. Life does not automatically owe you contentment, or respect, or acceptance. These are things you have to activate through your own actions. Learn a few words of a neighbor’s language, visit a place of worship different from your own, explore varying political views or learn the history of another culture. If you want to thrive, it’s up to you to help create a nurturing environment!
6. Everything you need to thrive is within you … if only you will test it
During my life, I have had ten ‘hometowns’ in six different countries. Each time I’ve moved to a new city, I’ve had to build a friendship network, navigate unfamiliar surroundings, adapt to new cultures, try new food and grieve for everything familiar I have just left behind. It’s hard work. Very hard work. But I have not just survived this regular upheaval, I have blossomed in many ways because of it.
I am undoubtedly more open, friendly, adaptable, accepting, tolerant, resilient, optimistic and grateful than I was before my travels began. But these are not things I have acquired — they are qualities that have risen up from within me. By chasing new opportunities, stepping outside my comfort zone and challenging myself, I learned that I have always had the ability to expand, evolve and thrive in any situation. I just needed the opportunity to exercise these qualities in me.
Kim Forrester is an award-winning author, educator and intuitive consultant with over 15 years’ experience as a professional intuitive and spiritual teacher. She combines cutting edge science with traditional spirituality to offer the latest understandings of psi, consciousness and holistic well being.