By Dannette Haley – www.dannettehaley.com
Moving from Ottawa to Toronto was not a big deal, although Canadians who don’t come from Toronto liken this city to Gotham City – face it; I had already left Havre Boucher, Nova Scotia: population 400 (when everyone was home for the holidays). Imagine when my husband, who worked for a multi-national company, arrived one evening, full of joy and anticipation; his first international assignment – Dallas, Texas was being proposed. After swallowing the lump in my throat – I thought, well better call my sister and run it by her – she knows everything!
“What Dallas, Texas; how will you celebrate Halloween with your doors locked to bar all the criminal elements that must be coming just to your door”?
Stopped in my tracks, there was more at stake here than Halloween. What about my career? As a Canadian living in the US my employment status would be: “NOT ELIGBLE FOR EMPLOYMENT”, how long till I could get my career back on track? What would I do with my time? I had a good university degree, had a great job and my childhood dream of being a busy career woman was slipping through my fingers as my husbands career was like a beautiful garden, thriving under wonderful sunshine.
After weighing all the pros and cons, it was more important to him to have international exposure and I took the stubborn and determined stance that I WOULD get a job despite the employment restrictions in the US.
Leaving Canada and arriving in Dallas changed our lives and set us on a course that fulfilled even our wildest dreams! After all the fears and trepidations, we discovered that people in this strange, dangerous land are actually quite nice and quite like us! Hard working, fun loving, and non-gun carrying – for the most part.
We stepped out of our comfort zone, rolled the dice and decided to make the most of the adventure. For the spouse who is working, they have a haven of business colleagues who share a common goal and have the opportunity to go to the office everyday. For the spouse who is not working; that is where the challenge lies and for my husband and I, it was important that I AGREED; I accepted the challenge.
You don’t know, what you don’t know about places until you have tried it and no matter where you go, you will find like-minded people!
A Job IS JUST A NETWORK AWAY
Eighteen months later, another bomb – honey; what do you think of Singapore! “What, Singapore – I don’t even like rice” – there is NO way I can live in Asia. And besides, I had just started to enjoy this new culture and lifestyle in Dallas, Texas; new relationships with other young couples, wonderful neighbors with dinners back and forth; a casual drink on a terrace; all the exploring left to do, not to mention the shopping. My father had his first ever massage at the tender age of 55 in Dallas. He would be devastated if we moved. He certainly would never visit us in Singapore from Havre Boucher, Nova Scotia, which would be the equivalent of going to the moon for him!
And how would I ever be able to restart my career? This proposed new culture would be too different, too unmanageable but with a heavy heart, I accepted to go and “look & see”.
On that “look see”, through mutual friends, “who knew somebody that knew somebody”, I met my best friend for the next three years. My husband and I arrived with curious and willing attitudes (albeit tired from the jetlag) and open and excited to at least have a bit of a vacation and experience the best of Singapore for the week that we were there.
My first conversation with Vicki, was a “me too” conversation – You lost your mom in your twenties; me too. You have two sisters, me too –(and three brothers for me). Your kids drive you crazy? Me too! You have live in help? -That is so going to be ME TOO!
Needless to say, we loved Singapore! Again, we met like-minded people that were in the same boat; away from family and loved ones and up for an enlightened Asian experience. Part of that great experience was saying yes to that first proposed connection with people that we did not know but who could give us a first hand perspective on living in Asia.
It really is the mystery of the relationship and where that first YES can take you.
After packing up Dallas, organizing another international move, paying strict adherence to what could and could NOT be brought into Singapore (because you know they cane people for chewing gum – NOT), we discovered that Singapore was actually NOT on the moon and we had more visitors then we ever could have imagined, including my father twice!
My brother was the first to visit with his wife and family. This experience had such an impact on them, when they had the opportunity to relocate to Singapore from Alberta, Canada ten years later, it was an easier decision to make and indeed after having spent 10 years in Singapore; it was a life changing experience for them and their three children as well who profited from the world experience of being educated in an International school environment!
AND through another chance of fate, neighbors on the street where we lived, worked at the same company I had worked for in Canada. Again leaning on my network, I was able to work with this company on an important project that restored my confidence that I could be a valuable contributor to a business after several years out of the workforce.
Staying open to building and nurturing a strong network, wherever one goes is an important part of any career transition.
Like all good things, Singapore had to come to an end! Through my husband’s professional network, he was approached by an ex-colleague to explore the opportunity of a job in Atlanta, Georgia. After being so sure that I did not want to LIVE in Asia; I was POSITIVE that I did not want to leave this paradise life of exotic foods, great friends, live-in help! Who was going to unload the dishwasher on the other end?
Whilst deciding this next life changing decision, we took what could be one last holiday. Staying at the same hotel was an American family, who also lived in Singapore and whose sister Wendy was visiting from the U.S.; from Atlanta to be more specific. I absolutely ignored her but my husband was all over her like “white on rice”. “Oh, we are thinking about moving to Atlanta, blah, blah blah”. Of course out of politeness, she insisted that we give her a call when we came for our “look see”.
We went for our look-see, had a lovely but neutral lunch with Wendy as we listened to all the great reasons to live in the South! I resigned myself to another international move and insisted as a condition that we apply for status for me to be able to work immediately.
While we were in temporary accommodations in Atlanta, we were standing in line at an Atlanta fast food restaurant; Chick-Fil-A and I hear this; “Hey Dannette”. Then and there, I re-met Wendy, and with the fog of resistance lifted, I was able to see and appreciate this warm, intelligent and helpful person in front of me and Wendy became my best friend for the next five years! It was again the mystery of the relationship and being open to wherever a chance meeting, a small, spontaneous conversation can take you.
You know what’s coming – YES – we LOVED Atlanta! My career was again on hold because of my employment status “NOT ELIGIBLE FOR EMPLOYMENT”, but I knew that as soon as the application for a green card came through, that I would be ready. I filled my days with volunteering to the max at my children’s school, meeting people, moving forward important projects in the community. The day the green card came through, I was WORKING! Was it my dream job, actually maybe it was. It was back in sales, but at a very popular kitchen store – interacting with customers and providing solutions to their culinary problems gave me an opportunity to bridge the gap between my volunteer and community involvement and my desire to work full time.
Pack your family values with you
Throughout all our moves, there were some constants. Annual trips back home to reconnect with family, an open door invitation to family and friends to visit whenever they wanted. For our family and bringing up children away from our culture, it was important to have some ground rules. One of the rituals that my husband and I both grew up with and that we made a mainstay of our family life is to eat together as a family at the end of the day. Sharing this time and getting at least twenty minutes of undivided attention, has allowed us to pass on stories of our childhoods, relate the important aspects of the day to each other and to stay connected. Respect, honesty, trust were the themes behind a lot of these stories.
There was a pivotal moment during our Atlanta stay when our then nine-year-old son came home from Atlanta public school one day and professed his support of a complicated US foreign policy. I explained to him that as Canadians, we were PEACE LOVING – he said, “but I’m an American” – we knew it was time to move on. Having a broad-minded view of the world was a family value that was important for us to instill in our children and we were committed to this.
Once again, I had just started my next new passion and had enrolled in a culinary arts school with the ultimate goal to bring new and exciting food to the world. The decision to move to Switzerland offered so many more advantages to the whole family, our goal of having internationally minded, bilingual children, my strong value around learning – (a new language) and the advancement of my husbands career provided a balance to leaving the comfort and security of the known and an ambition of mine, that I knew if I was really committed to, that I could make happen somewhere else.
Atlanta was a wonderful sejour in our adventures and one of the strongest family values that we reconnected with was our faith value. When we left Atlanta, honoring this value in Geneva opened up a whole new family and community for us. In my darkest moments of being in despair at once again having to reinvent myself in a country where communication was, at best, difficult, this faith value pointed me in the right direction. And gave me hope!
Honoring our family value of open-mindedness and acceptance we enrolled our children in The International School where once again, to fulfill my need to serve, I volunteered to the max- and through the parent network at this international school – which is one of the strongest networks as a traveling spouse that you will belong to, I was able to “be discovered”! A parent who had her own Executive Search Company needed help and I was just the girl.
Coming back to the “mystery of the relationship “and being open to your network – I was offered a part-time job on a contract basis to do research – two years later, I was the main consultant effectuating searches throughout Europe! Reinventing myself yet again led me to my profession today, which is a professional business coach. I realized my passion for helping candidates in their job search, honored my value of learning in studying to be a professional coach and fulfilling my life long dream of being a busy career woman.
And if you have any doubt left as to whether or not to embark on this international life journey, don’t take my word for it. I offer you great advice from one of my all time fav’s:
“You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
“And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)
KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
you’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!”