Sunday, May 1, 2011

Outgrowing Anonymous Country

Two things are clear as I look over my last posts on Anonymous Country:

1. Writing about getting my heart broken while being of service to the world resonated with a lot of people. There are a lot of us living abroad, leading people and managing projects that we believe and hope are making our world a better place. Many of us feel the magnitude of what each of us, individually, is trying to shift. Sometimes we feel it so much that it hurts.

2. I have outgrown this blog. I used it as a postcard of Liberian stories for my family, friends and colleagues. It’s time to follow my gut and move on to a more purposeful project.

One of my friends, who’s living his first year abroad, asked me if my last post was cathartic. The word implies a triggering of negatives to bring about a positive, a detoxification. The answer is no. I shared my fears not because I expect them to diminish, but because when I name them, they lose their ability to control me. By sharing them, I also saw from the resounding feedback that many of you feel the same way. I’m talking about the deep fear that our hearts will one day break too much to heal, and that we will come away from the service work we do in the world broken and bitter. We all know plenty of people who have.

I’ll paraphrase the only negative feedback I got: “Elie, we know you’re sad about stuff, but get over it and post your grief in a less public place. I’ve had worse things happen, but you don’t see me blogging about it on the Internet.” I'll continue to update about my beloved Liberia-based community projects here.

But if you ask me to be quiet about the toll the work I do takes, about how I stay focused on creating and inhabiting the kind of change I want to see in the world, and the answer is no.

I won’t.

Instead, I’m archiving this blog and starting a new one at Expat Backup, where I’m exploring how to design an expatriate lifestyle that is healthy, happy, and of service to the local and global community—because aid workers need humanitarian assistance too.

I’m a lifelong expatriate and I’ve seen and experienced the toll our choices to pursue service-focused careers far from home can take on families, friendships, and personal health and happiness.  

It shouldn’t be that way, and I’m going to explore what we can do about it.

No matter who you are or what kind of work you do, if you’re living in a foreign country, you face specific challenges. Whether you’re an entrepreneur, an aid worker, a diplomat, a teacher, a volunteer, or any of a long list of professions that seek to create positive change, wanting your work to be of service sets you up for a unique set of expectations and difficulties. 

At Expat Backup, I’m going to explore those challenges and see how we can meet them. I’ll be interviewing leaders who are living exceptional lives while being of sustainable service, and I’ll be sharing my own experience about how to design an expatriate lifestyle for maximum happiness, prosperity and positive impact.

My new work is not for everyone. I’m writing for expatriates who want to be of service, smart and intuitive professionals who believe that it’s possible to avoid the burnout and cynicism so common in our fields. I’m writing for those of us who want to innovate and improve on what’s been done before--and what we’ve done the day before. I’m writing because the work we do matters immensely and because it’s up to us to make sure we’re in good enough shape to keep doing it.

I know we can be.

I hope you’ll join me.

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