When a colleague of mine, at a recent conference, explained that she was doing research on expat bloggers living in London, I felt a blush coming on. For two reasons, actually. I thought about this blog of mine and, at first, about the long loooong time I'd been spending away from it. And, then, about how typical anyone researching my blog must find it. And, being a researcher myself I found the two ideas intriguing, especially since I had a strong suspicion they were closely linked.
It all starts with why expats pick up blogging in the first place. Their motives do vary, though most of the expat bloggers I know have been doing so for two reasons combined. First off, there's a certain wow element to settling down and setting up business in a foreign country. Wow not necessarily in the sense that people would marvel wide eyed at your success, but rather because, at least at first, new experiences jump right at you from every nook and cranny -- and it's so much nicer to share them with friends and family... and the world wide web. =) Second, there are particularities to expat life, and though some find a welcoming, buzzing life waiting for them, many struggle to come to terms with their new surroundings. Sometimes, with too much free time on one's hands sharing those experiences with a friendly and compassionate audience is all the more appealing.
That's something I've been through, and though I'd never want to wipe that period out of my personal history, I'm so much happier with my life now. Mostly because it resembles a life, but also because feeling all those inner and external conflicts evaporate is just so liberating. Recent events (I'll be posting about these two ballots soon) made me realize that first, I could never go back to Hungary; and second, I will never be completely and utterly accepted as one of the Swiss either. Facing these have been hard, but also, again, liberating in a huge way. I could let go of my leaking safety boats and let the wind fill my sails. It should have left me sad, or even afraid, but it didn't. You see, if you're not putting all your trust in a way out, your current situation becomes all the more real and enjoyable. It's no longer something conditional and temporary, dragged down by a lot of ifs and buts, it's yours and it's now.
And that's when living life becomes a more important pastime than complaining and marveling about it. I know that's harsh, and it was a shocking reality to me too. Letting go of my escape routes made me realize what I want, made me crave it too. It made me work day and night on a life I'd only thought a dream, an option that became real because it was the only one remaining. I had to do it, without thinking, without taking the time to consider how magnificent it all was, how brave I've become -- lest I lose my courage.
I have no idea how others have been doing. It's not something people often write about. Some stop blogging, because they meet a partner, have kids or a demanding job -- all in all, find a place to fit in. Others leave the country for new adventures or a more restful period back home. Or simply disappear from sight. I don't pretend I know how they feel, how could I? Not that I'd want to. Expatting is so personal, so individual an experience, I'd never want to do that.
And yet, I can't help but feel that there's a general truth behind all this. I've found that in order to build up a new life, you have to be 100% true to yourself. Be honest. How much of your old life can you keep? How much would you care to keep? What are your dreams and what if you were really to make them true? What is this new place and how do you feel about it? What would make it feel like home? Who do you want to be if you can be anything and anyone in this new life? No, stop blabbering, this is for real. There's no such thing as an expat, no category you can hide behind. Once you can see that, you have to make a decision. (To begin with, then make a hundred more.) Give it some time and thought, and clearly formulate a definition of who you are.
Now the question is whether blogging has a place in that.