“You’re an expatriate. You’ve lost touch with the soil. You get precious. Fake European standards have ruined you. You drink yourself to death. You become obsessed with sex. You spend all your time talking, not working. You are an expatriate, see? You hang around cafes.” ― Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises
Hemingway wrote those words in 1926, but they still pour salt on the wound of the expat today. Expats are not having sex all day and drinking, just as doctors are not having sex in broom closets while at work as “Scrubs” and “ER” would have you believe. Though we do seem to hang around cafes a lot….
Moving abroad to find myself…..
Sometimes I do feel like I have lost touch with the soil. I am the American-born daughter of Mexican immigrants living as a perpetual tourist in Costa Rica. Spanish was my first language but I speak English better than Spanish. Where do I belong? Back in Texas I knew exactly who I was and what my role was. First generation Mexican-Americans are a dime a dozen in San Antonio. I was also a doctor and a mother and a wife. The problem was that my priorities were in shambles. I quit my job and put my career on hold, despite the fact that it was a huge part of my identity. I rearranged my priorities so I am a mother and wife before anything else.
Since my children are at school most of the day, I am often asked what I do all day. Well, laundry, cleaning, cooking, grocery shopping, and running errands take longer here than back in the USA. And when those menial but essential tasks are done……I am a writer! Wow! I cannot believe I said it. I may not be a professional writer, or a great writer, or I may never go beyond writing for my blog. But I am doing it and plan to make the most of the time I have during this year off. If Hemingway had written “The Sun Also Rises” in our time, he would have said, “You spend all your time blogging and tweeting, not working……..You hang around coffee shops with free wi-fi”.
What becoming an expat has taught me….
Leaving the comfort of my home and job to move to Monteverde took a lot out of me. I know it sounds glamorous and exciting, but in reality it is one of the most terrifying, exhausting, and stressful things I have ever done as an adult. Surviving the transition depends a lot on arming yourself with a good sense of humor and patience , forging a support group with your new expat friends, and finding comfort in your family from your home country. As the dust is settling from our move, I find myself feeling happy and grateful. As much as I miss my family and friends and even my job, I learned I have more guts than I ever thought possible. I have learned so much about myself, my family, and the remarkable ability of the human spirit to adapt to anything.
“If ever there is tomorrow when we’re not together… there is something you must always remember. You are braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think. But the most important thing is, even if we’re apart… I’ll always be with you.”
― A.A. Milne
The courage it takes to leave your comfort zone behind, no matter how toxic, to redesign your life is not limited to moving to another country. It also takes courage to leave an abusive relationship, quit a dead-end job, or embark on a journey to weight-loss. The process of walking away from negativity or turning a toxic situation into a better one is similar. Everyone has a different idea of what treasure lies at the end of the rainbow.
How have you walked away from your comfort zone and lived to tell the tale? Let me know in the comments below.
- The emotionally resilient expat [by Linda Janssen]. (3rdculturechildren.com)