Written by Claire Hauxwell
On a cool morning in early October, I sat at my desk with a hot coffee in hand to find an email from Jo Parfitt. “I am delighted to offer you the Parfitt Pascoe Writing Residency (PPWR) scholarship to the FIGT 2018…” were Jo’s opening words. Sitting at my desk with my mouth gaping open — I was dumbfounded… I must have read her email three times.
At first, I was hesitant to accept. I’m not really sure why… maybe it was the fact I was making a commitment to something other than the school PTA or that I hadn’t even told my husband I’d applied for the scholarship. But, deep down I knew I wanted to embrace the opportunity. And, if I’m being completely honest… I was pretty chuffed with myself for being selected! I had turned 40 this year, and had been an accompanying spouse for almost 10 years. It was time for me to start figuring out who I was again. The PPWR and FIGT was one of the steps I needed to take in the journey of redefining myself.
I am a planner. Type A to the bone. But, no matter how far in advance one lays the foundation for execution, it always seems like something goes off the rails at the last minute. Of course my husband ended up having to travel the same week as FIGT 2018, leaving me to figure out what to do with our children. Realistically this wasn’t a hard task — my friends stepped up without hesitation. But, the thought of our family being spread across three different continents had me cringing. What if something happened? All I could think of was #expatlife.
When #expatlife popped into my head, it made me realize the people who would (hopefully) understand this concept were those awaiting me in The Hague. The entire reason for this trip was about, because and for #expatlife.
As I nervously boarded the plane, I began thinking about all the wonderful things I had heard about FIGT. Simultaneously I couldn’t resist feeling excited, anxious and curios about the experience before me. I think part of my nerves were due to the fact I was not only attending the FIGT conference for the first time, but as a PPWR writer too. For me it was time to ‘show up to the dance’ and really get out of my comfort zone.
The FIGT conference is full of smiles, hugs and laughter. It has a familiar atmosphere I can only describe as a family reunion. My first day I hovered against the wall like a wallflower. FIGT may be like a family reunion, but it was a family I wasn’t part of… I knew no one. I take that back — I knew no one in real life. The expat circle is a small community spread around the world and connected by people and words — words in books, magazines or blogs written by individuals just like me scattered around the globe. It finally dawned on me — I was surrounded by virtual friends… bloggers, writers and social media influencers. I didn’t ‘know’ them, but I felt like I did.
But, here’s the best part: The moment I felt like I became part of the ‘family’ was when someone out of no where walks up to me and asks, “Are you My Theory On Blooming?” I was stunned. Someone knew me too. This small moment changed my inner-self’s view about being part of the FIGT conference. It only takes one comment to change your perception or create a connection… and it can come from anyone. It can be in The Hague, with someone you’ve never met, who lives a world away and speaks a different language than you. I’m betting anyone you speak to at an FIGT conference can relate to you in some way.
The FIGT conference reminded me that I’m not on this crazy rollercoaster alone. #expatlife is not always the glamorous and exotic skewed reality so many people think it is. It’s real and raw with some added bonuses. I learned a lot about #expatlife and myself during FIGT 2018. The knowledge of #expatlife is in abundance during the FIGT conference with experts on resilience or TCK’s or transitions. FIGT is not all academic or scientific theory — It’s the real life stuff too. With real people, who live real lives all over the world. I found FIGT to encompass all aspects of #expatlife. And, it was a great opportunity to learn, grow and help redefine myself in this small world.
This is FIGT to me, and this is #expatlife.
Claire Hauxwell is an American living abroad, who has over 9 years of expat experience. She loves the life she lives, but recognizes her unconventional lifestyle is not for everyone. Claire choses to embrace the challenges expat life throws at her, and opts to bloom where ever she is planted. David, her husband of 15 years, along with her two daughters and two dogs, navigate a global life full of adventure that has lead them to Europe, Latin America and Africa.
Claire is the author of the blog My Theory On Blooming. Here she ponders her off-beat lifestyle and the trials and tribulations of life living abroad, all while not taking herself too seriously. Claire’s theories are her thoughts and concepts about how to navigate this crazy thing we call life — no scientific proof, it’s just like having a conversation with a friend.
You can also follow her on Instagram: @mytheoryonblooming, Facebook: @mytheoryonblooming and Twitter: @mytheoryonbloom