The Wizardess of Oz

An American's Adventures in Australia and Beyond

Author: thewizardessofoz (page 2 of 13)

You Gotta Keep Yourself Scared

Scared

Lately, I’ve been writhing with dissatisfaction. I have no idea where it’s coming from or why I’m feeling it, which makes it incredibly difficult to find a way to stop it. I end my days feeling unsettled, mildly unhappy, and completely bewildered. Little things tick me off. I sometimes overreact, and this makes me behave in a way that I don’t like. I’ve been twisting this new mentality around in my mind for the last few weeks, trying to solve the mystery of just what the hell is going with me.

My lightbulb moment came as I was self-lurking my LinkedIn profile and reflecting on my career of 3 years ago. Back then, I was thrown into things so far out of my depth that I had to run as fast as I could to make sure I could make them happen. I was quietly terrified all the time – sitting in meetings with people two or three times my age and having them actually listen to me. I was leading the meetings – I was telling one of the largest companies on the planet what to do, and they were doing it. All I really had to rely on at that point was mild creativity and a lot of common sense. I certainly didn’t have the years of experience to know what I was doing. I was making it up as I went along. And I was succeeding. Not every time, but most of the time. In retrospect, it’s astounding. At the time, it was motivating.

Reflecting back on that time in my career is humbling, and it’s also helped me uncover what I think is wrong with me. I’m not scared anymore.

I know what I’m doing now. I rarely get put into situations in my career where I feel out of my league. But maybe I need that. Whenever I felt like that in the past, I usually managed to reach down deep somewhere and pull out something groundbreaking. I have the years of experience, and have probably packed more experience into those years than many people do in an entire career. But I think I’m coming to a point where even my dynamic and social career is starting to feel repetitive and monotonous. Where I know more than I don’t know. And after that, it just becomes splitting hairs and debating the best way to phrase the idea, instead of the idea itself. And I’m the type who prefers substance over style.

So I’ve taken the first step: I’ve identified the problem. And though I have absolutely no idea what form the solution will take yet, I know that I gotta keep myself scared.

Scared to Death

18 Months

I’ve been living away from the US for a year and a half now. I’ve had two birthdays in Australia, I’ve missed a family Christmas, dozens of birthday parties, engagement parties, and baby showers. I’ve even missed the wedding of one my oldest and dearest friends. And missing the big events does bring the distance between myself and home into sharper perspective, but it’s the daily moments that I miss the most, I think. The coffee dates and brunches, days at the beach and happy hours on weeknights, dog parks and road trips and being able to see my mom and dad much more frequently than every six months. Not that I’m not doing many of these things in Australia, or that the people I’ve become close with here aren’t just as amazing, funny, fun, or intelligent as my friends in the US. But there is a big difference between being a part of someone’s daily life and being another email they put off sending.

Sometimes, you can feel yourself slipping out of other’s lives. Texts, emails, or Facebook messages become further and farther between, then stop. Wedding invitations don’t come. Birthdays pass unnoticed thanks to the international date line. A year and a half seems to be the point where friendship over time and distance is tested, and it’s either pass or fail.

I’m the first to admit that I am a difficult person to stay friends with, depending on your personality and definition of friendship. I’m shit at staying in touch with people, even though my communicative-ness (or lack thereof) is in no way an indicator of my feelings for another person. So I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise when an email scribbled out after months of non-contact goes unreturned. But with lives so busy for people our age – we’re getting engaged, having babies, buying houses, are in a critical stage of our professional lives – I understand that life moves quickly and many things seem much more important than remembering to give someone a call. It’s sometimes difficult to see the world turning without you and knowing there is nothing you can do to participate in these small moments.

As I read this, I know it seems whiny and depressing, which isn’t my intention. Just an observation that even in our hyper-connected world, with the Snapchats and the Tweets and the WhatsApps, it’s still very easy to lose touch.

Breakup Makeup

I have a friend who I love dearly, and for good reason. She is funny, sassy, clever, quick with a one liner, and we spent most of our early twenties turning into adults together. I have frequently referred to her as my heterosexual life partner, and thus far in our lives she has been, even through various moves to different states and countries on both our parts.

But there is a recurring theme in her life that drives me absolutely nuts: it takes her 5 or 6 times to break up with a serious boyfriend who is just not a match for her. For the last several years it’s been the following pattern with anyone serious:

Friend: I met a guy
Me: Ooh! Tell me more.
Friend: He’s just a guy, it’s not really serious but he’s pretty sweet. We’ll see how it goes.

**Couple of Weeks Later**

Friend: I think I’m starting to like this guy. He said/did (enter sweet thing here).
Me: Awwww he sounds sweet! (Insert inappropriate question about guy here [I can’t keep the dialog 100% authentic since my dad reads this])
Friend: You’re a pervert. But yeah, we’ll see how it goes. I don’t really want anything serious.

**Couple of weeks later, Facebook status changes**

Me: Oh I see we’re FBO now?
Friend: Yeah he’s great (proceeds to list great qualities)
Me: Sounds like a keeper!

**Several months to a year later**

Friend: I don’t think it’s working out, we’ve been fighting a lot about X or Y, there’s no reasoning with him, I’m trying to make it work because I love him though.
Me: (Offers some sort of relevant advice). I’m sure you guys can work it out.

**Weeks later**

Friend: It’s been amazing!

**Weeks later**

Friend: (Sobbing) I can’t handle it anymore.

**Weeks later**

Friend: I ended it.
Me: I’m really sorry babe (hugs and ice cream)

**Weeks later**

Friend: We’ve decided to give it another try.
Me: Despite X and/or Y? Do you really think that’s going to change?
Friend: We had a serious talk about it, I think it can change
Me: Great, I really hope it works out for you guys

**Weeks later**

Friend: (Sobbing) It’s not changing
Me (in my mind): Shock! I never saw that coming!
Me (out loud): I’m so sorry babe, probably better to just call it and find a better match
Friend: I know (sob)

**Weeks later**

Friend: We decided that if I make sure I do X, and he makes sure he does Y, we can sort out our differences.
Me: (raises eyebrows) Good luck!

**Weeks later**

Friend: (Sobs)
Me: (Facepalm)

Breakup Makeup

Anyway, I could probably continue this dialog a few more times around (depending on the ex-boyfriend we’re talking about) and it would be more or less accurate. To be fair, this hasn’t happened with every guy she’s dated, and she is not a perpetual monogamist either. But the last few serious relationships have slowly stuttered out of existence in this manner.

I’ve taken the understanding path: “I’m so sorry hon, I know how difficult the end of a relationship is and I’m here for you, whatever you need.”

I’ve taken the angry path: “I’m sorry friend, but are you fucking kidding me? You know the definition of insanity, right?”

I’ve taken the ‘I’m not your mom but I don’t approve’ path: “You’re an adult and can make your own decisions, but I’m disappointed.” [Stole that one directly from Mama Brown’s playbook, thanks ma!]

What shits me the most about the whole thing is that I know this woman better than almost anyone in the world. I know she is smart, and tough, and doesn’t take anyone’s bullshit. Unless she’s in love with him. Then it’s a bullshit free-for-all, and she rolls around in it until she can’t breathe, then stands up and shouts, “Hit me again, Johnny!”

And the only thing I can think to tell her is all the trite crap you can read in “It’s Called a Breakup Because It’s Broken” and “He’s Just Not That Into You” and all the other books that have been published to pry money out of the hands of heartbroken women everywhere. “If it didn’t work then, it won’t work now” and “People don’t ever really change that drastically” and “They’re always on their best behavior for the first six months, then you find out who they really are. That means this is who he really is, and it sounds like he sucks.”

Unfortunately, despite her sass and her mental toughness, her fatal flaw is blinding herself to the realities of the person she has fallen in love with. As someone who loves her, this is infuriating and difficult to cope with.

So when I heard (not directly from her, of course, at this point I think she probably knew I would hit the roof) that after months of finally being free from the last one, she was back with him, I hit her with both the angry and the Mom responses, then stormed over to my blog and laid this out.

Men

So here’s my final word to both my dear friend and anyone else who reads this blog looking for love advice: Loving someone does not mean you need to blind yourself to their faults. Loving someone means you put their needs first, and that they should put yours first. And if at any point that other person puts him/herself and his/her own bullshit before you, loving them is not a good enough excuse to stay. You deserve more, and it is out there, if you can stop holding onto the past and can look forward.

your ex

Vanuatu: The Experience

“How was your trip?”

That’s the first question out of my friends and coworker’s mouths after “Happy New Year!” when I arrived back in Australia.

In a word: Amazing.

I didn’t really know what to expect when we landed in Vanuatu just after midnight on Christmas Day. I walked off the plane and onto a muggy tarmac and smelled… mud. Good, clean, wet earth. It was an absolutely gorgeous smell, which didn’t translate when I whispered to the English Muffin: “It smells like dirt.”

A van ride down dark streets seen through bleary eyes didn’t do much to acquaint myself with Port Vila, the capital town on Vanuatu. But I couldn’t resist dipping my hand into the warm water of Mele Bay as the boat ferried us and about a dozen sleepy guests over to Iririki Island Resort. On our way to our room, a hermit crab the size of my hand and stars that looked close enough to touch were our welcoming party.

The next day was Christmas on Iririki Island, which we spent listening to a children’s choir of locals sing carols while we feasted on a buffet lunch of every imaginable Christmas dish under the sun (turkey, ham, roast beef, you name it) and had more than our fair share of wine with a lovely couple from Brisbane. The rest of the day was spent tipsily swimming in the ocean and various swimming pools in our resort (as did the majority of the days we were in Vanuatu).

By way of adventure we rented a quad bike from On Wheels, a rental shop run by a couple of friendly Frenchmen (as the French and English were the primary colonizers of Vanuatu before their independence). We used this to do a full loop around the main island of Efate. A short and scary detour down a very steep slope led us to a village full of friendly faces and waves as the two foreigners whizzed through, scaring the pigs, chickens and puppies.

On the Road!

On the Road!

A quick pit stop for a Tusker (the local brew of Vanuatu) and some just-caught-this-morning Yellowfin sashimi at Wahoo Bar led to a delightful conversation with George, the bartender who lived just across the water in a small village on the island of Lelepa. He mentioned that a friend of his does tours of Lelepa by boat, if we were interested. We’d been in Vanuatu for long enough to know that this place hasn’t yet been spoiled by tourism, and that the locals were friendly and trustworthy people who seem genuinely happy for the visitors that flock to their island paradise. So we got George’s number so we could organize the tour a few days later.

Our quad tour of Efate included a stop at a deserted reef spot where were free to snorkel to our hearts content and feed the bold and bright fish that swarmed under the crystal clear waters of Undine Bay on the north side of the island. We also stopped at the Blue Lagoon, an inlet of the ocean that was the deepest blue you could possibly imagine, where we watched local and tourist kids alike swing from rope swings and plunge into the deep blue depths from the highest tree branches they dared to jump from. And a roadside sign for hot springs found us covered in mud just 15 minutes later, then testing our capacity for heat in water that was well over 100F.

Little Piggies, Feeding the Fish, Eton Beach, Mud Pits and the Blue Lagoon

Little Piggies, Feeding the Fish, Eton Beach, Mud Pits and the Blue Lagoon

A couple of days of lounging around had us itching for adventure again, so we called up George and arranged our tour of Lelepa with his neighbor, Terry. We jumped on the boat from Wahoo Bar and jetted directly across the water to a deserted beach made up of broken pieces of reef, where we snorkeled and scared ourselves out of the water by asking about sharks (which weren’t in the bay at all but were suddenly top of mind as we swam deeper). We stopped off at the beach where Survivor: Vanuatu was filmed for more snorkeling and lounging in the sun (which turned out to be a bad idea), then around to a hidden cove where dangling a piece of bread in the water would have fish of all sizes, shapes and colors eating directly from your hand. To close out the tour, Terry took us into the village where he lived, and we met his neighbors who were making cava and going about their business. Seeing their simple way to life brought the complexities of our own into sharper focus, and we talked about how simple life could be if you just didn’t need so much stuff. We finished the day at Wahoo Bar with a couple of Tuskers, salty, sunburned, and exhausted.

On the boat, hiding from bats in a cave, the beaches, feeding fish and cava making in Lelepa village

On the boat, hiding from bats in a cave, the beaches, feeding fish and cava making in Lelepa village

New Year’s Eve was shared with just the English Muffin, fireworks on our hotel balcony and a couple of bottles of Moet. We grudgingly left the following afternoon, vowing to come back and explore more of the islands in the archipelago and return more of the beautiful smiles from the friendly Ni-Vanuautu.

In a word: Amazing.

We Gave Thanks

One really fun thing about being an expat is bringing the traditions of your home country to your new international friends.

And so several weeks ago, I created a Facebook event, called a butcher, and began the plan to recreate Thanksgiving with 18 of my friends. Due to the capacity of my oven, I had to outsource many meal elements to my fellow Americans who were joining to celebrate the day, as my primary task was the 17.5-pound Turkey I had a local butcher bring my way.

The crowd was heavily skewed toward non-Americans this year, whereas last year’s Thanksgiving only had a few Aussie interlopers. However, as I sat at a table full of English men and women and told them the history of Thanksgiving, I made the point that this holiday was technically begun by the English settlers of America, so it was as much their holiday as it was mine.

There we a few groans when I mentioned the tradition of going around the table and giving thanks, but everyone was a good sport and participated, with one of the single young men giving thanks for the single ladies of Sydney (fair shout). I looked around the room at the crowd, a few familiar faces from last year and several new faces who have entered my life only this year (including the English Muffin), and I knew that I was most grateful for how much life changes, bringing new people into and out of your world. How in one year many things that had been steady in my life before my move had changed, but that those things weren’t the ones that mattered. Because here I was sitting among people that I loved, but hadn’t even known this time last year. And so I was quietly grateful for the difficult times I had thrust upon my life by uprooting everything and moving to an island on the other side of the sea, because those difficulties have borne out the most beautiful and lovely life full of new friendships I never would have had otherwise. And most importantly, they brought me to a very kind man with a lovely soul that I never would have had the pleasure to know if even one little detail had been different.

More wine was downed, football was watched, dishes were cleared up, pumpkin pie was consumed (much to the bewilderment of many of the English in attendance, as pumpkin is meant to be savory), and a generally great Thanksgiving was had by all.

Comparing this to last year’s Thanksgiving of eight lovely people that I had newly met, to eighteen that could all be counted as friends, with a tip of the glass to the universe, I gave thanks.

A Delicious Massive Bird

A Delicious Massive Bird

The English Carving the Turkey

The English Carving the Turkey

Dig In! Photocred: Annie Bettis

Dig In! Photocred: Annie Bettis

Pumpkin Pie! Photocred: Annie Bettis

Pumpkin Pie! Photocred: Annie Bettis

A Non-Humblebrag

Have you heard of the humblebrag? If you are my aunt/uncle/parent (pretty sure it’s just you guys reading this anyway), I’m going to guess not. So the lovely UrbanDictionary will come to the rescue:

Humblebrag

In an effort not to be an asshole, I am going to do everything in my power to just be overt about my bragging.

Remember that time I mentioned I’m going to Vanuatu for my first Christmas without my family? Well, the English Muffin managed to use his powers of negotiation (he’s very smooth, how do you think he snagged me?) to get us a ridiculous Deluxe Ocean Front room at Iririki Resort, a hotel that takes up an entire private island off the coast of Port Vila. I’m sorry, ARE YOU JOKING?

Just to make sure I’m being as overt as possible about what a brag this is, here are some photos:

Iririki5 Iririki4 iririki3 iririki2 iririki1Yes, that is a jacuzzi on the balcony. Yes, that is the kind of room we have. Yes, that is an amazing sunset over the South Pacific. Yes, this is not humble in the slightest.

I knew spending the holidays without my immediate family for the first time was going to be a difficult one, but looking at these pictures, I have a feeling I’m going to be juuuuuust fine.

I will, of course, make sure I duly report back once I’ve stayed at the resort to let you know what is amazing about Vanuatu and what may not be so awesome.

Until next time, xoxoxo!

The Wizardess

Photo Source: Iririki Island Resort

Mr. Perfect

Have I not covered off on the Mr. Perfect story yet? Well, now that I’m all boring and coupled-up, I’ll have to dig into the archives for juicy dating (or lack thereof) stories.

I met Mr. Perfect late last year, not too long after my arrival in Sydney. I was still a bit in recovery over my attempted and failed foray into long-distance relationshipping, but had gotten enough distance to be out the wallowing zone and into the “prove you still got it” zone.

Enter: Mr. Perfect. Attractive, tall (6’3″!), educated (P.H.D!), amazing job ($$$) that allowed travel to lots of travel to cool places, great taste in food, great taste in booze (a scotch man), a working knowledge of wine, down-to-earth, witty, open-minded, friends with people of all ages and backgrounds… absolutely… perfect. My mother would have loved him, he probably would have been able to give my dad a run for his money on the golf course, he probably could have had an intelligent conversation with my brother about whatever the hell he does in finance while simultaneously delighting my sisters with his stories about abseiling in Jordan.

And I felt… nothing.

No pulse of romantic interest, no heart-flutters, no physical desire whatsoever. We had met through mutual friends and managed to have a few drinks together (in a non-romantic context) with some of our friends. And the more I got to know him, the more perfectly perfect he became, and the more I realized that perfect on paper rarely translates to perfection in reality. There was just no spark. No click. He was a lovely guy to spend some time with, and had a lot of amazing stories. And it’s fun to speak to someone very intelligent who works in a fascinating field that has nothing to do with your own.  But that’s about as far as it got. When he asked if I wanted to go back to his for a drink at the end of a night of boozing, I politely declined.

I know a lot of people who aren’t believers in “everything happens for a reason,” but I am one. And it’s probably not a mistake that the winds of fate didn’t create the right conditions for a spark to be struck and a flame kindled with this Mr. Perfect. And I know that no one is perfect and there’s probably a reason this smart, well-traveled, attractive guy is still single, but even if there wasn’t, I still somehow knew he wasn’t perfect for me. And that reason is most likely because I needed to meet my English Muffin, who IS perfect for me (Awwwwwwwww, sappiness!). So despite my initial frustration at not being able to force myself into an attraction with this guy, it’s all turned out well in the end, I suppose.

…And ladies, he’s still single.

Perfect

The Benefits of Bitchy Resting Face

Surely by now everyone has seen the Bitchy Resting Face YouTube video, correct? This made the rounds of the internet several months ago, exposing an issue many of us didn’t realize we had. I sat back after watching the video in wide-eyed amazement, thinking, “THIS is what people mean when they say I’m ‘intimidating.’ They mean I look like a bitch when I’m not smiling!” It was a fact that has always lingered in my subconscious, but the YouTube video finally brought it into consciousness and gave it name.

Here's an Example

Here’s an Example

While the video focuses on the things that bitchy resting face can screw up in your life, I’ve actually found that bitchy resting face has some positives to accompany the negatives. Here are a few:

1.) Business Meetings: Bitchy Resting Face (BRF) can be key when you’re sitting in a meeting with just about anyone. A friendly face automatically makes the person in the meeting with you think you’re on their side. My face says, “Convince me,” without me ever having to say a word. When you’re in the business of buying things from groups of salespeople, you need a face that says, “Bullshit me and die.”

2.) Walking Through a Crowd: When you need to get somewhere, or are leaving a concert or sporting event, or when your natural walking speed is about 4x that of a normal human being (me), BRF can be a crucial asset. Here’s my tactic: I fix my eyes into the distance to avoid eye contact and focus on the end goal, don’t smile, and walk with purpose. Most people who are coming head-on will naturally just move out of the way, probably because I have a face that looks like a serial killer’s.

3.) Keeping the Boyfriend On His Toes: My darling English Muffin tends to be a bit of a worrier as it is, but sometimes I’ll be lounging reading a book or watching TV and he’ll look over and say, “Everything alright?” To which I usually respond with a look of bewilderment, until I realize that I probably look super bitchy because all of my facial muscles have relaxed. BRF is actually helping me keep tabs on the health of my relationship, because now I know that when he stops asking if I’m alright, something’s wrong.

4.) Avoiding Bums, Criminals, and Religious Zealots: When you live in a major city and commute primarily by foot, there is no way to avoid the bums begging for change, or the people trying to stuff their religious creed down your throat by shouting and shoving a doomsday pamphlet into your face. Unless you have BRF. They take one look at your bitchy face, and decide your bitchy eternal soul can rot in hell. The bums tend to be a bit more indiscriminate, but there were a few occasions where he/she would look at me, then go for the person next to me. Success! I also have an overactive imagination and am always assuming that anytime I walk anywhere by myself after sunset that I need to be hyper vigilant about all the murders and rapists in Sydney (paranoia, I know). So in the evenings I’ll put on my bitchiest of faces without even realizing it. I’ll stroll up to the bar queue and my friends will say, “Are you okay??” with concerned looks on their faces. BRF has struck again.

Now that I’ve identified that I have this gift, I find myself slipping it on like a warm sweater when necessary. Take today, for example: I was already late for work, speed-walking the six blocks between the bus stop and my office, leading the pack of foot-shuffling city walkers. There was a sizable gap between us the group of corporate commuters walking ahead, and as I advanced I saw them: blue-shirt-clad RSPCA volunteers. There were puppy prints on their hats. There were clipboards. There were wide, fake smiles plastered across their faces. My opponents had presented themselves.

I felt the muscles in my cheeks relax. I fixed my eyes on the bus stopped a block ahead. I was easily supposed to be their next victim, and I could see the first of the three of them size me up as I approached. My brows drew together just the tiniest bit. I waited for the advance and overly-loud introduction, and as I passed I heard him go for the girl walking directly behind me, with a much friendlier face. Both of his fellow volunteers did exactly. the same. thing.  Now who wouldn’t want to avoid being accosted by well-meaning but obnoxious tree-huggers without having to say a word? Many may think the bitchy resting face is a bad thing, but this girl’s embracing it.

Men Can Have It Too

Men Can Have It Too

Until next time, xoxoxo!

Oh, High School

According to various photos posted into my Facebook feed, this past weekend I missed my 10 year high school reunion. I knew this would be the case when the Facebook invite was sent around with a date of early October – only a few months after my most recent return home to America for my brother’s wedding. And as much as I’d love to spend $2,000+ just to see how far some people have fallen while simultaneously demonstrating that I am now smart, successful, and socially well-adjusted, I can think about 3,648 other things I’d like to do with $2k.

high school reunion

Whenever the topic of high school comes up, my Aussie and English friends here in Sydney excitedly quiz me about the experience, with the first question usually something along the lines of, “How much is like Mean Girls?!” My usual response is that it isn’t quite that dramatic, but now that I have insight into the UK/AU high school experience, I’ve found that it actually might be, in comparison.

High school in America can be cutthroat – academically (depending on the school), but so much more so socially. It’s an environment where the masses are desperate to put everyone into a group so they can easily classify each individual. There is the ever-desired “Popularity Quotient” that is then applied to each group, and this determines who you are allowed to sit with at lunch, who you try to sit next to in class, etc. And no matter how much you pretend you don’t care, when you’re 15 you really want your PQ to be high, because the higher the PQ, the hotter the boyfriend/girlfriend you can have, the easier it is to get asked to Prom, and the more you get invited to house parties instead of having to crash.

Just last week at a boozy work lunch, the topic of high school in the US came up, and I was posed this question: “What group were you in?” I hesitated before answering, at which point the asker rushed in with “You were definitely in the Mean Girls group, weren’t you?” I can see how he may have made that assumption based on who I am now (power bitch), but no. I actively avoided pushing my PQ in high school after particularly socially cruel treatment from the “Mean Girls” in middle school (yes, it starts early). When you get a smackdown that hard, you don’t really bother putting yourself in a position to let it happen again. So I mumbled out something about how I participated in theater in high school which probably aligned me most closely with the Drama Nerds (of which 100% are legit kicking ass at life – go you!), but the truth is I was a Drifter. Sometimes I hung out with my close friends from middle school, sometimes I hung out with the drama kids, but mostly I hung out with my closest friend, who was also a Drifter. And, when given the choice, we usually hung out with people who didn’t even go to our high school.

reunion

When I compare this to the high school experience of Australia and England, I find that the playing field there is generally much more level. No rush to badge and be badged, no panicked race to increase your PQ. You had your mates, but nobody was generally outright mean to anyone else, except the standard asshole bullies and troublemakers. None of the subtle slights and social maneuvering required of American high school. So what is it about the US that makes it so different? A capitalist government? The huge divide between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’? Hollywood perpetuating 80s stereotypes? My guess is a mix of several factors. My American friends, what do you think? And if we went to high school together and you actually read this (thanks!), what group would you say I was? I didn’t get to go to the reunion to find out, so… 

Tall Poppy Problems

Australia is very much a land of the “everyman.” Everyone created equal, no one is better than anyone else, and fitting into the pack is respected much more than separating oneself.

In business, this translates into Tall Poppy Syndrome. If you are American, you may be unfamiliar with this term, so here’s the Wikipedia for you: a social phenomenon in which people of genuine merit are resented, attacked, cut down, or criticised because their talents or achievements elevate them above or distinguish them from their peers.

In the US, this only applies if you lack one crucial element from the above sentence: genuine merit. And so much of the struggle to succeed revolves around developing that merit, growing it, and celebrating its growth as it happens. One of my biggest professional struggles since my move has been exactly this – being resented for being willing to push what I think is right, even if it diverts from “authority.” In the US, challenging the status quo is seen as way everyone keeps themselves sharp. But here, it’s frequently seen as a personal attack, most often from people more senior than myself. It’s always a bit of a shock to my entrepreneurial and capitalist system when someone takes a small shot at me for having a better idea than they did. Americans spend their entire childhoods being indoctrinated to reach for personal excellence. Our Army’s slogan is “Be All You Can Be,” but that phrase might as well be plastered on the walls of every college and white collar boardroom in the nation.

Trying to adapt to such a fundamental and deep-rooted shift in perspective is a tough one. I’m fortunate to (now) work in an environment where this isn’t the norm. But every once in a while when things are going well and recognition is coming in from multiple sources, a small kick in shins comes my way to remind me that I’m just like everybody else (because you know, my giant inflated head can’t figure it out on my own), and the wind of achievement lessens within your sails just a bit.

Hopefully I’ll be able to retain my Americanness this regard as much as possible, because it would be a shame to come back to the American workforce indoctrinated with this negative perspective on success. It’s one small and strange way the Australian culture really rubs against the grain of my native culture, and frankly (I’m a little biased though) I think it’s +1 point for the USA.

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