Thursday, January 9, 2014

Coming home: stories of fame, stories of glories, stories of wannabes

How was life abroad? This is one very difficult question you have to expect. If you have just moved back to your own country, you are bound to see people that will inquire about your whereabouts and especially the reasons why you came back. Then of course, the dreaded question pops up: "how is it to be back home?" Understandably, you don't feel like giving away too much, it is still very personal, sometimes painful, and you still have to elaborate this process of loss, mourning and rebirth. You may feel like a rejected lover who must face the fact that it wasn’t mutual love and has to pick up the broken pieces. It is very complicated to explain all this turmoil to ourselves in the first place, let alone to others. 
Then we might feel displaced even though everything looks familiar, but we feel somehow estranged. In fact, we are living in-between worlds; our feet are not firmly on the ground yet. Our memories are still fresh and faces and places have the tendency to overlap. It takes some time to re-adjust our internal compass.
Therefore, caution is required when pouring out your experiences. Besides you don’t need judgment or labels for what you went through. Your experience, a tough one by all means, breaks a pattern of deep-rooted myths. There is a whole literature out there that pushes us to believe that a new life abroad is not only possible and desirable, it is much more, it is real. And yet, as you have just found out when you decided to come back to your country, your story doesn’t quite fit in with the rest. Breaking with a consolidated tradition that preaches abundance and happiness in utopian promised lands is the first and hardest task to tackle.
We left a world we might have even loved, desired to be part of, but the unhappiness experienced there, whatever the cause may be, made us come to terms with a reality made of crushed hopes and expectations.
It is like the disappointment when finding out that Santa doesn’t exist, a big collective lie that is encouraged and reinforced to keep children dreamy and naïf. Likewise, we have unquestionably taken for granted the American dream as true. We have never questioned the stories of successful expats we heard from family and friends. Actually, we always listened to them with great interest, some awe and a bit of envy. But as you hear more and more about happy ending stories you start wondering if and why you had to be the only black sheep of this flock who migrated abroad whose story doesn’t really have all these “wow” and “ohh” twists! How come everyone strikes it rich and you can barely make it? That is when you become very critical and less gullible. You know what it is like living abroad, so when you hear some aspects of fab lives abroad you know for a fact they don’t quite add up. Purely for entertainment purposes I am all in for storytelling. But when they want to impress us omitting some factual details or altering them, you get the idea of the game being played: no-one wants to look like a loser. In my country there is an expression that says something along the lines that it is better to be envied than pitied.
So, out of spite, I would suggest you start bragging, the more the better, only to wipe other’s people smirk off their faces when they start pitying and patronizing you about your sufferings. Ok I am overdoing it here, but both you and I know better and keeping a low profile is what you want. Keep details for yourself just now and confide only in those few friends who have been always there in shiny and rainy days, then give yourself the time to elaborate this internal earthquake, assess the damages and rebuild. 
So, when someone asks you how it was back there and how it is to be back, offer the quickest, hassle-free and most expected reply of all: "Great!" You are not lying, you are just expressing the deep attachment you still feel for the country you left and the one you came back.
It will get better, you have just been through the first phase of coming home. 
More to come about the next phases of being back home: stay tuned!!

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