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.