Being an Expat

by | Feb 28, 2016 | Stories | 3 comments

I didn’t expect that writing about being an expatriate would be so challenging. Emotionally challenging, I mean. I know exactly how I feel about it but to put into words is a rather different story. It is overwhelming for me because often I feel I don’t belong anywhere: I don’t belong here in the US and I no longer belong in Brazil, my native land.

Curiously, on the flip side, I can also affirm that I belong anywhere, everywhere, exactly for the condition of wandering that I find myself in. It is not a dilemma if you don’t need to take sides. You really don’t. It’s better to embrace the magic of acknowledging you came from a place but now you are in another one… and who knows where you will be tomorrow? You can make a home anywhere, you just have to make up your mind about it and do it.

You can leave your country but you will take it with you anywhere you go, regardless of the size of your “baggage”. Heavy load or pocket-size, it doesn’t matter, and what you do with it, it’s up to you. Not only that, today with all the technology available, you are not that far anymore. You are not unreachable. Facebook, Skype, Whatsapp etc definitely have shorten the distance. Of course, it’s not the same as being physically there with your loved ones, giving them a big hug, for example, but this is as good as it gets for the moment and it’s better than nothing. The fact is, true love, true friendship will always prevail. Your relationships will be redefined and you will find out who came to stay.

A German coworker told me long ago that after having kids in your “new” country you feel that the sense of belonging catches up with you. I agree with that today. At that time I was childless and counting only with the benevolence of time to imprint the “home” feeling but I was enjoying my life anyway. I always had the understanding that I was here by choice. I would not have stayed in a foreign land feeling miserable, longing for my native country if I had the option to go back. This is not my style.

Living abroad did expand my vision of life; it made me stronger, bolder and a more tolerant and welcoming person. Beyond of what I thought I was. It requires resilience as you will need to be humble enough to ask for help, to reinvent yourself, to create your identity in this new place. You will make new connections, new memories, it’s just a matter of time.  You do that, otherwise you’ll be in constant misery and despair…  Normal feelings in the period of adjustment but as long as you don’t to stay in that dark place, you’ll find light. Hang on it.

People still ask me if I will ever go back to live in Brazil and my answer is always “I don’t know, no plans at this moment”, which is true. I am reluctant with a yes or no answer, maybe afraid of facing the implications – real or imaginary – of each one in my life. I prefer to leave this as an open question and focus in belonging in the moment, wherever I am. I guess being an expat taught me that.