This post takes a two-sided position on what I heard the most after first telling people I was moving to Athens…
(1) “You’re leaving America… permanently? Why would you do that? Isn’t Greece so poor now they’re like burning furniture to stay warm? It’s dangerous to leave the states now!”
(2) “You’re moving to Greece?? I bet you are SO excited.”
Let’s get number one out of the way. I’ve never seen anyone burn their coffee table to stay warm here. Though Greece is struggling… (more detail on that in my last post “Being an Expat: Misconception #2”), people had this idea it was a riot-torn, “dangerous”, third world country. I try to take a step back and not get irritated at those who automatically assume the worst of anything different… because honestly, in the states, one truly needs to go out of one’s way to educate themselves on the reality of international affairs. Unfortunately, it is rarely portrayed realistically on the local news channels. Though I don’t want to get too into politics with this blog… it is true American media is one of the most brainwashing, powerful corporations in the world. I am not a world politics expert by a long shot… believe me. I feel stupid quite often on this topic. But I did learn twenty times more about my own country during my time outside of it than I did inside of it… which I find incredibly interesting.
As far as my response to those who, with good intentions, tried to warn me of the terrors of stepping out of our white picket fence… I would fear the day more that I looked back and realized I missed life by dodging everything that scared me. And I can assure them, not listening to their advice was the smartest choice I ever made.
*Advice to prospective expats: Though making the move overseas is definitely HUGE… my best initial advice for you is DO NOT be fear mongered either way on your decision. Be smart, be well informed and make that personal decision for yourself. This is a life changing step, so props to you for even considering it! But, I beg of you… don’t let what others think they can’t do, dictate what they think or don’t think you can do.
Response to #2…
Well, of course, I was excited. Especially when I first made my decision about a year before I made my move. But I wouldn’t be honest if I said as time went on… I didn’t have days where I was telling one person “I’m SO READY to get out of TEXAS!!” and two days later, “what the hell am I doing?? Is this really a good idea?? I don’t know… what do you think??”. Emotionally and mentally I was like a balloon that had just had the air let out of it. I had never felt so insane in my life. My head and emotions were in two different directions. But what kept me going, was that in my gut… no matter if I was trying to breathe through a panic attack or defend my decision to the person silently, but clearly giving their disapproval; I KNEW this is what I was going to do. Whether it was the best or worst decision I ever made, I was going. Dammit.
But ironically, my biggest problem, was that even though the people that mattered the most, my family, were 100% supportive of me going… I was way too concerned with what people who had no relevance to my life thought. I was scared they were going to sense, despite my efforts to not let it show, that I was actually terrified… and make judgments on whether or not they thought it was actually a good idea based on this. I was scared they would think I was putting my life on the back burner and just going for a guy. I was scared that I was… scared. I had this idea at the time that if I felt anything but pure enthusiasm over my move, or starting a new life with Alex, that something was wrong.
I wish I could give the scared, very brave girl a year ago some encouragement and peace of mind with this…
The only thing that matters, in all of this, the only thing… is that quiet knowing, when you go to bed at night, that this is your next step. Not your friends’, not your grandmother’s, not the disapproving lady that sat next to you today at the nail salon. This is your thing. There is no need to “prove” this. Keep it quiet, keep it to yourself… your family. Once you tell EVERYONE, your will put yourself up like a public Facebook status, open to everyone and their moms’ opinion. And don’t put so much pressure on yourself to not feel unpleasant emotions before taking a very big jump. They are there… but they are not your truth. Your truth is your quiet knowing in the screaming chaos of everything else.
This is why I mentioned earlier to any prospective expats (or anyone taking any kind of big personal decision), to not be fear mongered either way on your decision. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about what I would’ve missed in my life had I just stayed put because I didn’t listen to myself. I have my stubbornness to thank for sticking to what I knew I wanted to do… but I really wish I would’ve had the advice I give you now. It would’ve made my transition a lot smoother.