“I took her to Trinidad for her 4th birthday. I was working from that vacation, sending emails and saying to myself that everyone outside is so calm and just enjoying the moment. And they don’t feel that stress of living to work, that some of us do. And that influenced my decision to do this expat thing with my daughter,” said Natalie Greaves, Marketing & Communications Expert.
When you know that you need a massive reset in your life, do you act? Few of us do. We keep doing what we’re ‘supposed to do.’ And try wanting, what we’re ‘supposed to want.’ But caring for our kids, parents and careers, under relentless schedules gets old. And Natalie was determined to leap out of her comfort zone. She didn’t intend to move to the Caribbean during a global health crisis. But leaving the familiar places, habits and routines behind – yielded unexpected rewards.
We tend to chastise ourselves when life doesn’t follow the plan. Instead of embracing the new conditions. Why is this so hard to do?
We’re Taught to Follow, Not Question the Plan
Natalie admitted feeling the dreaded Mom guilt. “I was wondered, ‘Oh my goodness have I done the right thing?’ When we moved here, we were in lockdown. And had to get used to being in a new country without being able to see a lot. So, we were dealing with that disappointment. But right after I got that out, my attitude changed.”
Drained by her frantic schedule in New York, she moved to Jamaica with her daughter for a year to reset. And she was not alone, Pew estimated nearly 20% of Americans made pandemic moves. And with some countries extending special visas, countless people went overseas.
But switching to life at island-speed, under Covid constraints, felt jarring at first. So, they recalibrated to roll with the uncertainty. She added, “And that made the difference. A lot of things that used to upset or annoy us, didn’t anymore.”
While Keeping All the Plates Spinning
“I used to be that uptight Mom. Almost like a stage Mom, making sure that she had the right tights and all the other things, for her performances,” Natalie said. Between running her own business, parenting and caring for her aging parents, she felt exhausted by competing demands. We often step in to handle whatever ‘it’ is for our families because in the short term, it’s faster. But we lose opportunities to teach independence.
She said, “A year ago I could not see myself having a conversation with my daughter about how to manage her email. It was like, ‘I’ll help you with your homework as soon as I finish doing this errand or taking Grandma to the doctor. Or doing all these other things, that made it seem impossible. And now I give her the tools that she needs and just let that confidence she feels blossom. And I don’t think I would have been able to take the time to do that in the pressure cooker. Because I was so busy trying to keep the plates spinning.”
So, We Try to Wrestle Change to the Ground
The dizzying pace of daily life requires a lot of energy. So, instead of leaning into change, we try to wrestle it to the ground. But if we can resist that urge, amazing things can happen.
“It’s been beautiful actually because it’s been a letting go process. I’ve been doing public relations for 20 years. And there are aspects of it, that I really hate. But I was still trying to force myself to create a business based on that model. And then because I wasn’t motivated to do it in that way, I was frustrated. Almost like talking to a child, I had this internal feeling of ‘I-don’t-wanna.’ So, I had to do some soul searching and be really honest with myself. And when I decided there’s another way, but I haven’t given myself permission to explore it, that’s when the doors opened up.”
But Resets Can Be Freeing
Trying to adhere to rules that aren’t working, can become the stubborn new obstacle to growth. But new conditions often invalidate the old plan. Natalie laughed, “There’s no plan. And if you told me this, in my 20’s, I would be like, ‘well there has to be a plan! I’m winging it here.’ But I’m not winging it, I’m being honest with myself about what will and what won’t make me happy. And at the same time, I’m modeling for my daughter how to make these decisions as she goes through life. Without feeling like she has to follow a specific formula. Or feel like I did, when I tried to follow the formula and failed. Because I didn’t know what the formula really was.”
And Help Unleash Your Creative Problem Solving
Natalie and I share Caribbean heritage. But even with that cultural background, full-time island living is a big adjustment. She said, “You learn the conditions don’t have to be perfect to achieve your own definition of perfection. We found ways to have perfect moments even when things don’t go the way that we expected.”
She had a long list of activities they’ve had to put on hold. Natalie explained, “It’s been over six months and the goat farm that we moved here to hang out on, is still not open. It’s probably not going open by the time we go back to the land of McDonald’s. But at the same time, my daughter discovered that her favorite fruit is soursop and she’s learned how to identify different types of lizards. And I know that she’s getting things out of this experience that she’s going to bring with her wherever she is.” Amen!
Not to Mention Flexibility
Most of the world runs at a different speed than the US. Natalie wanted her daughter to learn that and said, “She’s going to understand, that there are certain conveniences that we love and appreciate in New York. that you don’t get anywhere else. She will be someone who is very respectful of other cultures. And understand that some things take time.” What would you want your future self to be able to look back upon and say about this time? Natalie said, “When my future self sees either myself or my daughter, in situations where we are exhibiting those qualities that we learned on this trip. That will be the most beautiful blessing!”
And the Self-Confidence That Comes With Resilience
Natalie said, “Whether it’s the universe or just having really honest conversations with myself, being here created opportunities for me to look at where to go next from the most transparent place. And even say to myself, that I can do it well. Because look where we are now, we’re 1,500 miles away from what we were doing at this time last year! And everything is fine. So, learning to let go has instilled a new sense of faith and hope.”
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Many thanks to the talented Natalie Greaves!
Follow her great adventure on her website, LinkedIn & Twitter.
Natalie Greaves helps clients to find their unique voice and tell their best story. Specializing in public relations strategy, media outreach, social media consulting, and editorial writing. Natalie enjoys working with clients to communicate the value and purpose in their work. She created her company Greaves Communication Strategies in 2017 out of a desire to make marketing more accessible to entrepreneurs and organizations who find the process intimidating.
Natalie most recently served for six years as Ronald McDonald House New York’s director of communications, raising awareness and support for children battling cancer. She began her career in public relations working with organizations including The Direct Marketing Association, The Brain and Behavior Research Fund, and Ethicon Endo-Surgery, a Johnson & Johnson subsidiary.
In addition to PR & marketing, Natalie is also a travel/feature writer with a focus on the Caribbean and exotic cuisine. She’s also the “Entrepreneur-in-Residence” for the Tech Incubator at Queens College assisting local businesses to refine their messaging and embrace new digital marketing strategies.
A native New Yorker, she’s a proud mom of a very active fourth-grader, holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Rhetoric & Communication from the University at Albany in New York, and lives in Queens.