Yesterday I had an hour to meet up with a girlfriend. I picked her up and we wanted someplace close-by to grab a drink, so we hit McD's. And that's when we started discussing Europe and America. It was a conversation which had my mind boggled and confused throughout the entire night. Being an expat is not an easy job. It takes a lot of courage, sacrifice, and acceptance. Courage to learn customs, cultures, langauges, lifestyles. Sacrifice to give up all that is familiar and tread on unfamiliar ground. Acceptance of customs, cultures, languages, lifestyles that aren't those that you grew up knowing, understanding, and living. And acceptance of a changing you. A new person that evolves from the old, pieced together by the society that formed us and the culture that we've adopted. We live constantly with a longing for our life to take on some normalcy, and it seems like we never quite reach that goal. We're stuck in the middle, our hearts and our ideals and beliefs lying someplace in the middle of the Atlantic, between two continents that we consider our own. It is sometimes a scary and lonely place to be.
As we talked, we both worried about the America that we'd left behind, the America that we nolonger feel completely connected to. We discussed the fact that America is a country with a lot of issues, and it's not the superpower that it perceives itself to be, not the land of the free and home of the brave as we once perceived it to be. Our attitudes and our morals have changed with the changeover of our American address to our European one. Yet, yet, there's still thsi patriotic need to accept our home land, to see it as the land we left behind, the one we didn't realize was lacking in so many areas, the one we thought was THE land, the place to ruled and controlled our lives, our upbringing, forming us to be the women we are today. Where is the news, real news and not another Britney Spears anecdote. Where are the family values promised us by politicians that throw children into daycare from sunup to sundown while parents work ina job that they won't receive holiday pay or vacation time? Where is the promise of medical help, insurance for the sick and elderly, without wiping them out of all they have worked so hard to achieve? What happened to the sit-down family dinners where parents talked with their children about their day, where couples shared stories about colleagues and meetings, rather than the jump-in-the-car and head to the 99 cent menu at McD's for a meal to provide further obesity of the population? Why are babies and toodlers drug through the 24-hour Walmart to pick up toilet paper and milk when their brains need sleep to learn and feel unburdened by the trials of the day at daycare? Why are there neon lights flashing 24 hours a day when global warming is not a "thing of the past"? Where is the acceptance and rights of all people, regardless of sexual orientation, religious beliefs? Why, when I state that I'm an American do I feel bile rise in my throat rather than being proud of the place I call my true home?
Because, Europe has opened my eys to the many differences between these two continents. Europe has plenty of it's own issues and problems which we hear about on the news and see in our daily lives living here. Europe is becoming more American-ized before our eyes in the short 7 years I have become a resident. There are more fast-food restaurants housed in beautiful 17th century buildings. There are shops staying open later and snack isles filled with too much junk food. Butchers and bakeries are now housed in the big super-market chains, and I no longer need to go to 5 stores to comlplete my shopping list. Convenient, yes. But is life all about convenience? What happened to wholesome goodness? Why is the insurance that is mandatory for all citizens takign away little pieces of care bit by bit? Where does the 19% tax money go? As I replace another light bulb with an energy saving one, and carry out my bins of recycling to the curb for pickup, I realize that I have changed. And so have the two places in which I live. And I'm not so sure it's for the better.
I applied to become a dual citizen with Dutch and American citizenship. I am awaiting my acceptance as a Dutch national. I feel that my heart, my ideals, my mindset and my beliefs are clashed into some mixed up, twisting and turning ball in my mind. I love America. I love Europe. I dislike America. I dislike Europe. I agree with America. I agree with Europe. And some may say you can't have it both ways. But I can, adn I do. I am an expat. I am 100% American, formed by the likes of Jefferson adn Washington. But I'm also going to be 100% Dutch, formed by the ideals and values I have come to learn and accept in this land of Oranje. And so, I have an obligation to both countries, and yet I sit here, with all these thoughts and moral issues on my mind, and can't see anything that I as this 200% person can achieve to make the ideal world. Which pieces of American will I keep? Which pieces of Europe will I throw to the wind? It confuses me greatly.
My girlfriend and I had a really introspective discussion. And since then, I am more confused than ever about where I stand. But I am even more sure about one thing than I have ever been before. I want to do something to help make my country the best it can be. My country is not America, nor is it Holland or Belgium. My country is both. For my mind, my heart, my character and personality are built upon both...and I believe in both of them, even with all the problems I see. For they have created this me, the woman standing here today. A woman I am proud to be, with an open mind and a loving heart, and destined to be stuck somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic forever.