Impasse

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My friends in Pittsburgh frequently ask me when I’ll be moving home.

My friends and some of Piet’s family here have asked whether we plan on staying here for the long term or not.

The answer we consistantly give is “we’ll see.”

Because while we’ve discussed it numerous times and we’re definitely leaning in one direction, there really are no guarantees right now. The world, the U.S. especially, is still in a financial crisis. Unemployment is still high and the economy is still reeling and unstable. On top of that we hope to create a little Calliopiet at some point, preferably sooner than later and additional small people can also change our current equations when it comes to where we’ll put down long term roots.

There are days like today when I admit, staying in Belgium is somewhat appealing. Driving back from Lokeren where we celebrated our niece’s second birthday, I was gazing out the window at the nice houses with their large gardens and the groups of bikers and the ponies and assorted farm animals grazing in pastures alongside rustic brick barns and thinking of how much I’d like to live in one of those houses. I thought of all the local festivals that take place every summer and the weekly markets in Gent and Antwerp and how much I’d love taking family outings on the weekend to go to shop as a family. I thought of how easy it is for us to afford and receive health care here and how accessible public transportation is and the anciënniteit that Piet has in his position at the university.

But then I think of the other side of the coin. I think of only seeing my family and friends once a year, if that. I think of all of the birthdays and weddings and baby showers I’ve missed and will probably miss as long as I live here. I think of my current job and how far it is from what I want to do with my life and how difficult it will still be to try to find a job here that is even close to what I want to do. I think of how the masters degree I was working on in the U.S. (early education) doesn’t even exist here and how I’d have to spend 4+ years earning a masters in pedagogy while working full time (all of which would be taught in Dutch of course) in order to achieve what I could in America part time in 2 years. I think of that doctoral degree in writing curriculum that I decided would be my career goal right before things got serious with Piet.

There are things I want, things I need to do with my life. And my gut tells me that I simply won’t be able to do them here. I’m at a huge disadvantage when it comes to language here, even with my Dutch being good. Most of the well educated people here speak at least 3 languages, if not more. Also, my degree is in psychology, which is generally useful, but psychology here is a very different beast than it is in the U.S. and while it can be useful in pursuing other careers in America, it’s actual pretty limiting here.

In theory, staying here makes plenty of sense. Piet’s family is here, he has a good job that he enjoys, I have a…well, a steady paycheck, we have affordable health care, and Belgium is a perfectly good place to raise a family.
At the same time, I know I won’t be able to fulfill any of my professional goals while I’m living here. I need to be more than a wife who serves people coffee. I’ve always aspired to something higher than that and it’s already eating away at me that I’ve hit a ceiling that chances are I won’t be able to break through for a long time, if ever.
And on top of that, I don’t know if I can keep swallowing the lump in my throat every time I look at a picture of my parents or hear my dad’s voice over skype. I don’t know how long Facebook will be a sufficient way to stay in my friends’ lives. I don’t know how long I can stay wondering if the last time I saw my grandparents will be the last time I see them ever again.

I don’t want to be selfish, but at the same time I’ve already given more in my situation than a lot of people would be willing to give.

All I know is right now I feel like I’m the knot in the middle of the rope in a tug-o-war between America and Europe and I have no idea which side is going to win.

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6 responses »

  1. I so feel your situation. We just happen to be on the US side of things. Having the munchkin makes it more complicated thinking of schools, etc. Best wishes for the ongoing decision making process!

  2. I know more or less how it feels. 2 years ago my wife and I decided not to stay as expats in the Philippines, our family being the main factor to come back to Belgium. A decision we still regret until now.

  3. I can understand how complex & emotional such a decision must be for a intercontinental couple like you. There’s really nobody who can make this decision process for you guys and I fear the ideal situation doesn’t exist.

    Good luck with it!

  4. I can completely understand everything you posted. When we moved here, we had no idea for how long it would be, though we now have a good feeling now of how long (shorter than we expected). I think it’s a really hard thing for me to go from being a career woman who felt successful in what she did to a housewife where my daily accomplishments now involve being able to understand the checkout lady at the grocery store. Sigh!

  5. First of all I want to congratulate you with your nice blog. I discovered it just moments ago, and until now I enjoyed reading every single bit of it.

    I can perfectly understand what you are feeling as I am a Belgian being married to a Spanish girl and spent the last 5 years of my life in Southern Spain. All people I know are jealous at me because I live in this sunny country that they associate with holidays, siesta, paella aka “the perfect life”. The truth is, not all is that beautiful, as you can imagine.

    Some days I’m perfectly happy here and other days I think back at my home country and think that life would be better there. I guess the grass is always greener on the other side…

    As to the fear of saying goodbye to some of your loved ones and thinking that you might not see them again..it’s something I fear(ed) as well, and actually experienced twice. On one occasion I went back home and visited my ill grandfather and on another one my ill grandmother. Both times I had to say goodbye, knowing that it would probably be the last time I’d actually see them alive. I don’t know whether you also starting thinking immediately something bad happened when someone calls you from the U.S., I do and I hate it!

    In both of the circumstances (you being here, he being there), there will always be somebody who isn’t completely happy. My hope is that this feeling will go away once I start my own family, and the most important persons in my life will be my own children.

    Anyway, I wish you the best and hope you make the right decision.

    Good luck

  6. I’m at a similar juncture. And home is pretty much the same distance for me as for you (Canada.) Haven’t solved this one yet myself. : /

    This aside – I just found your blog & I like it!

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