I’m about to enter my tenth year of life in Indonesia and it’s making me feel a bit nostalgic for those early, sweaty, confusing, exciting days when I first came here. But then I remember how far I’ve come and what I’ve learned and how I wish I could give the following advice to my younger self.
1. Don’t be afraid.
2. Brings lots of chocolate and stash it in a safe place for true emergencies.
3. Bring lots of mouse traps. Refer to #1 when the shrew runs over your toes while your cat just sits there. Then refer to #2 as disgusting rodents always constitute a true emergency.
4. No matter how bad the traffic is, keep your eyes open when you’re driving.
5. Trust your friends and allow grace to fill in the cracks caused by their failures and yours.
6. No matter what anyone says, you’ve got to try durian. You’ll hate it at first, but then you’ll try it again (three or was it, four?) times and something will change and you’ll love it. But eat only fresh-from-the-Borneo-rainforest durian. The already-cut-up stuff in the grocery store is gross. Also, a lot of other things related to living overseas are like durian. You might not like it at first, but then someday, you might. Or you might still hate it, and that’s OK too because you have #2.
7. Don’t be afraid.
8. Learn the art of creating some margin in your days in the things you can control, since much of your days will be filled with the unexpected. When the unexpected involves a shrew, refer to #3. When it involves a friend, refer to #5. When it involves fresh durian, refer to #6. When it refers to the washing machine breaking and flooding your house right before you lose electricity all day long and your husband is out of town and then your baby starts playing in the dirty laundry water, then refer to #2 because this is another true emergency.
9. Ask for help. You’re not alone. And you don’t have to be (too) tough.
10. Don’t try to avoid the hard things. They come with amazing treasures, growth and opportunities.
11. Let God reshape your dreams when reality hits.
12. Don’t be afraid.