expat insecurities: how moving overseas turns you into a middle schooler

This post has been marinating a while in my mind (often around 1 or 2 middle of the night: time to wake up and worry about things you can’t control. yippee!).

A variety of factors have appeared on the radar recently that I’ll attribute to a storm of culture shock brewing off the shore. An extended commute where I was stuck in a car in a land where I don’t speak the language (where is a restaurant where we can stop for a quick meal where we actually fully understand the menu without a million Google acts of translation?). My dear niece having a baby (whose cuteness level should be legit illegal). Video chatting with my best friend (oh right, your life goes on without me). The stupid fantasy that it would be easier to get healthier here (look at all those fresh, local fruits! where? well, you just have to walk past the bread and cheese aisles. what?). Texting with my godson (I shouldn’t be crying this much).

We arrived in Brazil in July (three months!), and so I expect this on some level.

But what has taken me by complete surprise is how completely insecure I am around other adults (eck! I am that adult).

It’s like my mind has been usurped by a middle schooler:

Do they like me?

I don’t fit in.

How come they didn’t invite me?

Where do I belong?

Do I look ok?

Where is the cool group and how do I get in?

Nobody likes me.

What am I doing wrong?


Of course, as I reflect, it makes sense. I am a new country, alone except for Dave, everything is unfamiliar, nothing is easy, the majority of those around me are also in some form of transition, my family and soul friends are on another continent, etc.

Yes, a healthy social structure is essential to surviving in a foreign land.

But, a healthy social structure takes time to find.

Time to build.

So in the meantime, I will try to accept this part of the process, this part of myself.

You too, Middle-School-Mary, are welcome here.




mindfulness in the classroom: for them, for me, for the world

This past summer, I took the course “Mindful Educator Essentials” from Mindful Schools. I knew from personal experience the power of mindfulness to steady myself, as well as to benefit students coming from traumatized backgrounds. But I was also looking ahead.

My future students–now my current students–would largely represent the opposite demographics of my entire teaching experience: wealthy, advantaged, political, prominent. And those kiddos have parents in the same category. And with such privilege comes an enormous amount of weight: the strongest drive to get the best grades and the most extracurricular sports and activities to get into the elit-est schools. Just typing that sentence stresses me out, much less living beneath its sagging reality on a daily basis.

Screenshot (5)

On the left: all the mindful practices I’ve incorporated so far in my classes. On the right: the guidance for “metta mindfulness” we are practicing this week.

And so, in an effort to provide my students with tools–and also because I like a classroom that feels like home for the heart and not just school for the mind–I’ve incorporated mindful moments everyday since the beginning of the school year. It is entirely new for me; yet it also feels uniquely ancient. And no, it isn’t exactly the Mindful Schools curriculum; however–better–it is that plus what works for me minus what is cumbersome adapted to the personalities of the students seated in front of me, breathing next to me. So much so that on a regular basis I hear:

Miss, aren’t we going to do mindfulness today?

I really need a mindful moment right now.

Guess what Miss, I did mindfulness before my game!

Um, yes please to all that teacher-soul-goodness.

This week, in alignment with the school’s kindness drive, I introduced the practice of metta mindfulness which offers loads of benefits. Metta mindfulness entails a dance of breath and phrases offering goodwill, starting first with ourselves, and then extending outwardly to those we love, those of neutral interest, those with whom we have contention, and eventually the whole world. At first, we only started with ourselves and with those we love. But today, with hands on our hearts, I prompted those who felt comfortable to call to mind someone with whom they have tension: an ex-friend, a challenging family member, or a politician.

Afterward I checked in with kiddos about their experiences. I asked about the level of difficulty in offering goodwill to someone with whom they feel tension.

One kiddo’s brief, but passionate, response said enough:

Yeah. Temer.

And never have I felt so connected to a kiddo. Because here I was:

Yeah. Trump.

It is no secret I am no fan of Trump. But today, I mustered up all the deepest parts of me to send him goodwill:

May you be safe.

May you be healthy.

May you be happy.

May you leave with ease.

And while parts of me revolted, screeching NO to such an offer of goodwill to someone I just… well…

the light in me, the love in me, the peace in me recognized that in my vitriol disdain for “the other,” I contribute to the problem.

In conclusion, I mindfully surrender to Martin Luther King Jr’s words:





photo journal of field trip to Belem

Day 1: Travel and arrival to Belém

Day 2: Travel and exploration of Marajó

Day 3: Travel from Marajó back to Belém

Day 4: Boa Vista, Para

Day 5: Belém to Sampa

Tried and True Teaching Tools

writing into meaning


"To sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."

Escaping Bars

Writings on Love, Pain, Overcoming, Hope, Longing, Justice, and Injustice


Strength \ Vision \ Service \ Exploration

A Tree On Fire With Love

But it's still scary sometimes because most people think love only looks like one thing, instead of the whole world

teaching With "Ang-sigh-eh-tea"

The life of a teacher who struggles with anxiety and depression.

Sampa Sympatico

A Yankee Teacher's Experience of Sao Paulo, Brazil

Once Upon a Time in México

Living my dream of teaching, traveling, and discovering culture

Teach. Travel. Taste.

A peek into the life of an American teacher in Colombia


Adventures in Globetrotting

Nomad Notions

Tales of Expat Living, Teaching, and Tramping in Taiwan and Beyond.

Sojourners' Journal

“Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he sometimes thinks he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people." —Albert Einstein

Pacific East by Middle East by Midwest

Observations and Experiences of Bahrain and Japan

Ex(pat) and the City

The life of a twenty-something Canadian living & teaching in Korea.

ISR Discussion Boards

ISR Discussion Boards are open to site Members & visitors alike. Your Voice Counts!

Teaching & Traveling

The Life of An International Teacher




Teaching in Brooklyn in Spite of Everything

Actively Dying

by Peter Fall Ranger


by Aleya Kassam

Words Half Heard

writing into meaning


A snapshot of my journey to living each day with gratitude and striving to be full of greatness


"I'm too old to live my life in fear of dumb people." - Charlie Skinner, The Newsroom

Cultivate Clarity

creative writing and mindfulness-based coaching, workshops, and retreats

Crawling Out of the Classroom

In everything that my students and I do together, we strive to find ways to use reading and writing to make the world outside of our classroom a better place for all of us to be


writing into meaning

Chase Mielke

Author. Speaker. Well-Being Expert.


Taking the journey, bumps and all

jenny's lark

the beauty of an ordinary life

Nonlinear Compilations

Parenting, teaching, writing, and learning to find beauty in the present

talk from chalk

What I've learned while teaching

Thoughtful teaching

Thoughts on teaching in the modern world.

Hope, Honor, and Happiness

A blog for the book “Kingdom of the Sun” and discussions on finding the Hope, Honor, and Happiness in education, life, and the seemingly impossible.

Secret Teacher

Life inside the primary classroom

A Confederacy of Spinsters

Sex, Dating, and Surviving Your Twenties

Miss Four Eyes

Seeing twice as much absolutely counts as a super power.


writing into meaning

Love, laugh, be light

"Re-examine all you have been told. Dismiss what insults your soul." ― Walt Whitman