Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Out Of Time - Expat Angst

This post is another special feature of my Tin Jubilee Celebration: a journal entry from ten-years ago as I stood on the cusp of becoming an expat.  Postcards From Across the Pond already existed as a web log (remember those?) at that time, but this entry did not go into it.  In looking over the published posts of the time, I think I should have put this up instead; it’s a lot more interesting.

25 February 2002 6:34 PM
[Yes, I used European-style dates in my journal; I thought it looked classy.]

It occurs to me that I haven’t written in my personal journal in a while, and maybe that’s because I don’t know how I feel.  Or, perhaps, I don’t know how I feel because I haven’t written in my journal.  Chicken and egg—you decide.

The fact is I feel numb; I just quit a job where I was making 60k a year and had a good pension and comfortable future to look forward to.  I'm leaving my children (okay, they're adults now, but still) and my friends and moving out of the country to marry a woman I hardly even know.  Like most outrageous things I do, I simply make up my mind, do it without thinking and then deal with the consequences.  I like to think this time it's different, and to a large degree it is, but the pattern is disquietingly familiar.

Right now, I'm sitting in my apartment, at my desk, writing on my computer, surrounded by all that is familiar to me (granted, it's a little sparse in here, but you know what I mean).  I sat this afternoon on the balcony, smoking a cigar and having a brew, enjoying the familiar scenery.  On a purely intellectual level I know that this is all going to change in a few days, but there is no hint inside me that I believe any of it is real.  I'm simply getting a kick out of telling everyone the story and being the center of attention because I'm doing something so radical.  But now all that is over; I've had my good-bye party at work, I've gone out to dinner with my friends and basked in their admiration as they effused about how brave and romantic I'm being.  And now I've got to pay the piper.

My last view of New York; it wasn't really difficult to leave.

Tomorrow my furniture goes.  After that, I'll be sitting in an empty apartment, just waiting to get on a plane.  What is going to happen to me when I get over there?

I'm finding I can't conceive of it.  I have no thoughts beyond getting on that plane.  After that, it's all blank.  I suppose that shouldn't be unexpected.  After all, I can only get my head around so much.  I've been busy extracting myself from America, and that has proven to be a rather large job.  England will take care of itself.

Still, why am I doing this?  What on earth could have possessed me to quit my job and leave my country?  That's a little over the top, even for me.

On the other hand, is it really such a big deal?  People change jobs, move from country to country and get married every day.  Granted, they don't always do all three at once, but many of them have.  Maybe I think I should be feeling something only because I'm on the cusp of such a big change; the fact that I feel nothing makes me wonder if I'm making a mistake.  Shouldn't I feel excited, or happy, or elated, or terrified?  I feel nothing.  I feel like I still have my job, I feel like I'll always be here in America in this apartment and that life is just going to go on this way without any inconvenient interruptions.

Two days, twenty-two hours and thirty-five minutes to go.  I wonder—when I land on the other side—how real it will be then.  Will I miss my old job and old friends?  Will I miss my boys?  Will my guilt overtake me?  Will I be homesick?  Will I not like living there?  Will I be able to get a job?  Will I become depressed and screw up my marriage?  The opportunities for failure abound.

For now, however, the party continues because, after all, it's all about me.  Tonight is my last Irish Dance class and I'm sure to get more "Oh you're so brave" and "That's so romantic" thrown at me.  Tomorrow I’m making one last visit to some close friends where I’m sure to get more of the same.  It won't be until I land at Gatwick that the ego stroking will stop and I'll have to decide, for myself, if I've done the right thing.

But, of course, by then it will be too late.

In re-reading that journal entry, two things struck me: One, that my Americaness has softened over the past decade, and Two, I did not, after all, make the wrong decision.  I thought you might like to know that.

POSTCARDS FROM IRELAND – the making of an expat
…the tale of how all this came about…
Release date: 1 March 2012.


  1. Anonymous3:02 PM

    It doesn't matter if what you did was romantic and brave or foolish and selfish. You made a decision. Something that so many people are too paralyzed to do. You you risked alot at a time in like that most people are no longer willing to take a risk. You say you felt nothing, but your words betray you. You were hungry; hungry for more. More of what was the blank screen, not your mind. You have accomplished something that few people ever are really able to work for; you accomplished a lifelong dream. You are a published author; and still going. Sometimes nothing stops people and everything and everybody become a means to an end. You are human enough to question and examine your motives, not just take. Be ruthless when you have to be, but always balance it with what life has taught you.


    1. I was many things during that period of my life, but paralyzed was not one of them. ;)

  2. Funny that - 22 years ago when I got on a plane to move to the States (having recently married an American who had to go back without me) I too felt very numb. I had had parties galore, right up until the night before, but I still couldn't believe I was really leaving.

    1. I guess when you can't know what lies ahead, numb is the only way to go. But, yeah, the parties were great.

  3. Anonymous11:12 AM

    You have to go with your gut feeling and then hope! We are glad that you did, you have been a great friend and life over here is so much better for your coming. Plus the fact we have shared some good whiskey together amongst other good times, and you are right, your Americaness (is that a word) has softened, but I hope you never lose it as it is part of your psyche. Perhaps it is about time we had a party over here, to celebrate your first ten years?


    1. Sounds like a great idea, especially since I found out I don't get to ride in a golden carriage around London on my anniversary. "Reserved for Her Majesty" What sort of excuse is that?