Avoiding Crisis

my so-called crazy life

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A little while back I made a comment on another blog about how we have been thinking of maybe considering putting in for an assignment in Africa. This lead someone to make the comment about how they couldn’t understand why anyone would want to move to a third world country. Now, I don’t really know if that person was making the comment to get a reaction, seeing how several of the readers of this particular blog, including the author, have lived in a developing nation, but nonetheless it got me thinking.

I have this love-hate relationship with the way of life we lead and the role of trailing spouse. Depends on the day really, and my mood. I can’ think and or write about this topic without contradicting myself. In the same sentence I can tell you how great this life has been for me and also express how much i dislike it. Not sure if that makes any sense, but I’m sure we all have things that don’t make much sense in our lives or are very difficult to explain.

Take for example today. Today I love living overseas. I love the opportunities I have to travel and experience other cultures and to learn a new languages. A few days ago, however, had you asked me about my life and what I thought about it I would have told you, in between the screaming and crying, that I hate living overseas, among a small community of expatriates and diplomats where everyone knows each other and gets into each other’s business and how I just needed a break from this place and wanted to go hide out in the United States for a few weeks by myself without anyone knowing where I am.

I know that this isn’t anything really specific to living overseas and that we all, from time to time, feel like we need to just take a break from our lives and get away from all the crap that’s going on around us, but living overseas, i find, makes these moments a bit more intense. Especially since the idea of escaping includes a flight to the USA, which easily runs around $1200 and well, that’s a lot of money to spend for a short get away from life.

Today, today, I like were I am. And I like being a trailing spouse. Again, tomorrow, I may have a different answer. Which is probably why I have so much difficulty writing about this topic. (And why I’ve been writing this particular post now for weeks without publishing it)

Often enough a friend, family member, friend of a family member and/or friend of a friend, and sometimes even perfect strangers who find out where we live, where we’ve lived and where we may live, have a million questions about this type of life. Always among these questions is one about how could we possibly live like we do, moving every 2-4 years, living in developing countries, living in a place where they don’t speak English, etc. For the most part this question isn’t negative in connotation, it’s just asked out of genuine curiosity.

It’s not an easy question to answer, really. It’s like when people ask me “So, what’s it like being a twin?” To which I always reply, I don’t know because I’ve never not been one. And well, living the diplomat life is a lot like that. I don’t know because it’s just something I do and not really think too much about it. Partially because if I put too much thought into it I’d realize how somewhat insane this whole process is, but also because it’s not something I can change right now anyhow, so what’s the point.

What I can share with you is how I came to be a trailing spouse, what that role really means to me and what it’s like living this crazy life. This is not meant to be a justification since, well, there is no need for me, or anyone for that matter in my position, to justify this life style. All I offer up here is an explanation, and a personal one at that.

When I my husband and I first met, I didn’t know that we would be living this sort of life. We had an on-and-off relationship for a few months and during that time he was hired by the department of state. By the time we got really serious he had been working in Washington DC and really enjoying his job. I on the other hand, I was searching. I didn’t really know what I wanted to be doing. I jumped from job to job searching for something that would fit. Nothing fit. By the time we got married I knew that we would be moving overseas, that was our reality.

Here’s the thing. My husband is really good at his job. He’s well respected, well liked and has a really good reputation. I on the other hand, have absolutely no clue what I should be or even want to be doing. Had we been living in the states, I would be forced to work because of financia lconstraints and because of my own expectations. II wouldn’t be able to fingure stuff out and explore varying options like I am now. Who knows, maybe I would have finally found what I was looking for. Maybe I would have sto9pped picking really bad jobs and crappy companies to work for. But then again maybe I’d still be searching. Just searching and working and miserable.

When I was pregnant with my daughter I remember thinking that it was the worse possible timing (it wasn’t the most planned event in my life, but also not a mistake). Then, my mother made a really good point (she does that on occasion). She pointed out that this baby’s timing couldn’t be more perfect. And that’s a really big deal coming from a women who’s only grandchild was about to be taken away to a third world country whose proximity was a 7 hour plane ride. But she knew better, she had struggled with the decision to be a stay at home mom to three kids. She put her career on hold. I didn’t have a career when we moved over seas. I had just finished a masters degree. It was in a way perfect timing. I was at a point in my life where I could start something new.

Living overseas gives my children an opportunity to experience something that I never had. They are growing up bilingual. Have friends from all over the world. So not understand the importance of skin color, or race, or ethnicity or religion. They are curious about the world outside of their own door. They love to look at world maps and point out where their grandparent’s live, where her friend Katie lives (Moscow) and where we used to live (Peru).

I grew up in the same house all my live. I went to school with the same people from elementary to high school. I grew up in not such a small town but it was small enough. Your reputation follows you were ever you went, as did the reputation of your brothers and sisters. I always wanted to start over, move schools get a clean start.

Am I afraid to live in Africa? Sure, a bit. Am I apprehensive to move yet again and start over. Absolutely. But regardless of whether I move back to the States or to another country, it will be the same. I’m going to have to deal with culture shock no matter where I go at this point.

I know that I’d be unhappy being back in the States right now. I’d long for days that were much more simpler. Away from the rat race.

I follow my husbands career, where-ever that may take us. While it may seem like I have a great life with no worries. This is NOT an easy position to be in. At least not for me. While over the past 4 years I’ve learned to deal with it and accept it, being a trailing spouse hasn’t been the best job in the world. Along with this position comes a loss of your own identity, your own purpose, and your own financial freedom. You become somebody’s wife (or husband) and….

But for now, I get to be a stay at home mom and even though it might not be my ideal job, I guess I’m kinda good at it – at least my kids seem to think I’m pretty good at it. There will be plenty of time for me to figure things out.It’s not so bad being a trailing spouse. Some days better than others. But it’s not really about sacrifices. At least for me. It’s about trade offs. I’ve put my work aspirations on hold, but in return I take my kids to school every day and pick them up and make them lunch and watch cartoons with them and dance with them.

Had I been in the states I wouldn’t have been able to travel like I do now and see the things that we’ve seen. I doubt I would have been able to walk with penguins, travel on the beagle channel, see condors in their natural habitats, drive through the andes mountains, and walk around Macchu Picchu.

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Written by nicolemarie

December 31, 2007 at 6:38 pm

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