I read in a blog how people suddenly find themselves with a changed personality. Many relate how they were once extroverted with opinions abounding, but how the expat experience have made them more introverted, more inclined to listening before venturing to share their opinions with others.
It is true of me as well, to some extent. I however thought it had more to do with maturity and lessons learnt in the process of growing up. It may be that the two coincided in my case. I have definitely found myself listening more with every part of me, instead of trying to think of my response to what people were saying.
Migration however, did change me, and I would like to hope that it changed me for the better.
Migration taught me that there indeed are 50 shades of grey, not as in the book, but as in life. It has taught me to have much more compassion with other people than I would have had in the past. Knowing how difficult it was to come and start over, with no friends and no comfort zone, brought the realisation that if you have not walked in another’s shoes, to rather just keep your opinions to yourself.
I have discovered that there are many, many worlds out there that I would still like to explore. In the past, travelling meant from one province to another, or from one game reserve to the next. But now, now that I am part of one of the most well travelled nations on earth, I can see myself travelling to different continents and different countries.
But most of all, migration has opened up one of the most profound experiences that I have ever had – the experience of complete strangers who become family. A while ago I attended a birthday of a friend who migrated from Scotland, and around the table we were four nationalities between 8 ladies. My circle of friends in the past was very limited, mostly because of my own fear to expand my comfort zone and quite frankly, where would I have met a Brit, a person from Spain, a Scot and an Aussie in South Africa? Now, I have friends who are as close as family, and in some cases even closer. I do not know why I have not been able to have more of those kinds of friendships in the past. It could be that I am not one who makes friends quickly, but when I do, I tend to invest quite a bit of myself in it.
Yes, I too have discovered that I tend to listen more than I talk; though people who have been in my house, may think differently! I try and listen without any judgement, because I am the stranger here, and the people of this country have been gracious enough to allow me into their hearts and homes. I would say it is only right that I listen more than I talk. That way, you get to hear so much more of what is important to others.
Migration changed me. I do not think it is possible to move countries and not be changed as a person, but I must say, I do like myself much more.