Dépaysement

I recently learned the French word dépaysement, which has no English equivalent. (Don’t you just love languages?)

Its English definition according to the Interwebs is this:

The feeling that comes from not being in one’s home country – of being a foreigner, or an immigrant, of being somewhat displaced from your origin.

And in that definition I felt kind of…well, at home.

Most likely this is due to my childhood in the Land of the Third Culture, a mysterious place that doesn’t actually exist on any globe. Rather, it hovers over the earth like a cloud where lost children float from here to there and back again.

Growing up in one place with parents and a passport from another place, they never quite fit in to Culture A or Culture B. These misfits end up hovering a few inches above the ground, rootless wanderers trying to find a place where they feel comfortable enough to let gravity pull them into the earth and make them feel “from” somewhere.

So I’ve been a foreigner in my birth country and in my passport country, in my study abroad country and my work abroad country. Always somewhat displaced from my origins, wherever those might be.

It’s an uncomfortable place to be for sure. Everyone wants to belong and feel connected, and Third Culture Kids tend to work very hard at finding their footing.

And so it’s no wonder that I found myself at home in a French word.

Despite my progress at making a home out of my Midwestern town – where half my ancestors are buried down the road and their farm remains in the family – I still feel the sharp, yet familiar, sting of dépaysement. Perhaps now more than ever.

It’s not the country or the language or the people that are making me feel displaced this time. It’s the lack of anything familiar at all.

I’m finding that the first step in becoming an entrepreneur is a paradigm shift. A complete overhaul of your worldview. A new definition of what the world is and who you are in it.

Which means embarking into some pretty unfamiliar territory.

It means looking at the world from the eyes of the person you want to become and not the eyes of the person you have always been.

So if you have always believed you are small, then you have to start thinking you are big. If you think you don’t have a voice, then it’s time to start shouting. If you feel like nothing you do ever changes anything, then you need to start believing that everything you do will change something.

And if you fail to make this paradigm shift? You’re going to stay small, voiceless, and ineffective. Ouch.

So as I struggle with making this shift, I feel the familiar – yet terrifying – feeling of dépaysement once again. A wide-eyed foreigner in this land of entrepreneurship. An immigrant desperate for a new home in a place where she can’t speak the language. Once again displaced from my origins, wherever those might be.

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