As some of you know I recently took action on the decision I made years ago to become an expat, to relocate somewhere south, somewhere warm, climate-wise and people-wise. After my own therapist told me that my choices were a) Do it and go through the temporary anxiety or b) Spend the rest of your life regretting not doing it, it became a no-brainer. So here I am, an expat psychologist in Ecuador. Probably the first stop of at least several. My practice now enabling me to do online therapy gives me the freedom to move about, and after 25 years in the same place doing the same thing it became clearly time for me to make a change.
Rabbi Hillel, one of the most influential scholars in Jewish history, said “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” And “If I am only for myself, what am I?” And “If not now, when?” This seemed all-too-appropriate to my situation. It became a mantra that wouldn’t leave my mind. It honors my obligations to be true to both myself and to others, to continue to grow and help myself and others, and to follow my heart and go forward with love.
And that is not to say that I left without love. A wiser man than I once told me that in order to be a good psychologist you don’t have to like every patient that walks through your door – but you do have to love them. And in my 30 – plus years as a therapist I have never met anyone within whom I couldn’t find something to love.
On a more personal level I have known some of you for a long time, and I will miss you – I already do. To those I leave behind please know that it isn’t personal. It is a matter of being true to myself rather than living for what I think other people want and need. It brings to mind the first of Hillel’s three statements: “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?” I did not leave you. I went for me. And had I not, you would have ended up paying for a disgruntled therapist or friend who would have been no longer able to fully be present for you, and that would be one of the most profound disservices I can think of. One that I sadly discovered too many therapists keep doing. But that’s another story.
I will never abandon my passion for helping others. I couldn’t if I tried to. And there are so many ways to do that – How could I ever get bored? Now as an expat myself I can learn to help other expats – I will have the shared experience of being an expat and all the emotions and situations that go with that. Expat psychology. A new horizon, and another way to be helpful.
And with my online therapy practice I will still always be available to you, to those of you who know me and want to stay in contact, to those of you I’ve worked with and want to “come back,” and to those of you I’ve never met who might want to see if I can help you in some way. You are all welcome. You see, I’m really not going anywhere.
I’m no Hillel, but I will leave you with this: Be true to your heart and follow it, because it will become too late too soon. There is so much to be done in such a short time. And find that something about you that you can love – cherish it, nurture it, and allow it to grow, and as you do that you will grow. Spread it around, and you will come to love and be loved. But hurry - time is running out.
Dr. William I. Perry is a psychologist, online and in person, with over 25 years experience in San Francisco, California. His specialties include expat adjustment, addictions, depression, anxiety and relationship issues.
William I. Perry, Ph.D.
September 7, Protected content