All you need is to love and have patience with yourself.
In the beginning, moving to a new country felt something like being re-born, with a new culture, new habits, new language, new friends, new weather and new challenges. I was suddenly away from my well-pampered life with my family and the comfort zone of well-known life.
I moved to become an au pair in a Nordic European country. I was quite young and naive at the time and since I didn’t have a child of my own, I forgot to ask certain questions during the interview with the host family.
One thing was certain about the family—their nature was very official. In addition to their wealth, their perfectionism, strictness and rule-obsession surprised me. It simultaneously scared me and looked like a challenge from which I could learn a lesson.
All my life people have told me I am free to do anything I like as long as it makes me happy and it doesn’t harm others. This family, however, had a materialistic approach in which happiness was not the top priority.
Something inside whispered to me: “Do this. It will be hard but you need to learn to deal with their approach to life. If you manage this, you will be able to manage anything else.”
So I said goodbye to my university-student life, all my private yoga students and the public classes in my home country and packed my bags.
When I arrived, a black, polished BMW took me to a huge but empty-feeling house and a sweet little boy. He became my best friend for next two years, and was my daily and usually only company.
I soon realized that the huge house I often dreamed of was something I would rather avoid. I never realized how empty and lonely it can be.
The life of the host family was well scheduled in order to get things done, which meant mine was as well. That was new to me.
Suddenly there was no time for my morning yoga routine, for creative writing, drawing, private yoga classes and studying. Instead there were working mornings during the weekends when my little friend and I stayed in only one room and had to be very silent.
That’s not easy to do when you have a two-and-a-half-year-old child who needs to be able speak with you in order to be bilingual.
Misunderstandings led to him being upset, which turned into crying and caused angry parents who were disturbed on their weekend lay-ins.
They said it was my fault and that they wanted only one thing. They said, “Keep the child silent. Aren’t you able to do that? If not, then you two better put some clothes on and get out of the house.” Mmm, I thought, what an idea when it’s -18°C outside.
I was devastated.
I tried so hard to make this child and family happy, but I forgot the most important thing—to make myself happy first. My body had begun to feel pain, my muscles were overworked and my brain was getting soft and lazy. Once I realized how bad I felt, the situation with this rich family became clearer to me and helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I suffered as I knew I would. So there was a lesson for me to learn at the end.
But why did I choose to go through this? What was so good that I would choose to help a family that could buy literally anything?
Then I got it—I was there for the boy. And I was there for myself—to learn who I am, to realize how important it is to say what is okay with me and to say honestly what is not acceptable. It does not matter what amount of money they offered to change my no into sweet yes.
Nobody had ever paid me for changing my opinion before. It turned out to be a new standard. The family called it “being flexible.”
It felt painful not only in my mind but also, after some time, in my body. It was as if my mental pain became a physical pain, as if I were selling my soul and my identity. However I used to judge myself before and however stupid and lazy I ever felt in my life, I wanted it back so badly now.
So I began to share my honest opinion, no matter how guilty it made me feel. It was the only way to respect myself again.
The family, not being used to hearing no, was rather disturbed. They told me I was inflexible and stubborn, and that I required too much. Later I became too annoying, so I was fired with a few months of salary in my pocket.
And then my student debt was gone. My spirit felt like it was being reborn. I learned a lesson journeying through a materialistic life.
It’s been about a year since I left the host family and I feel I am coming back to who I used to be. I still have my dreams and ideas, but this time I’m richer for experiencing “the other side.”
And I love everything about this side.
If there is anything I would like to share with you then it is the fact that you do not need to do anything in order to be loved, to feel good about yourself or to be accepted. And you don’t need a better salary to be more successful person.
All you need is to love and have patience with yourself, even in the moments when you feel bad about yourself. Give yourself time and space because you deserve it, and because everyone around you deserves to meet the happy you.
Sooner or later you will notice that you keep spreading love and patience everywhere around even without trying.
Klara Kvicerova works as a yoga teacher and massage therapist in Stockholm. She dedicates a big portion of her time to kids, trying to make them feel comfortable with who they are and with what they have, thanks to her other job as a nanny. In her free time she explores the town’s treasures, knits scarf after scarf, learns about body/mind and has trillion of unfinished projects waiting on her bedroom floor.
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Ed: Stephanie V. & Brianna B.