Have any of you seen the movie “She’s Having a Baby?” It’s a random John Hughes movie that in typical JH style, speaks eloquent words of wisdom on coming of age. Except this coming of age movie is more about the coming of age into full-fledged, real adulthood, with marriage, mortgages, careers and babies, as opposed to his typical teenage passage à l’âge adulte films like “Sixteen Candles” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” The reviews I took a gander at speak of this film as being an “essay” by John Hughes and his most “serious” film ever.”
Yeah it’s serious but very typical John Hughes and as usual, there were certain parts of the movie that again spoke to me and reminded me just how relatable the main character’s sentiments are to my own. It’s a crossfire between emotion and finding (or maintaining) your true self. Last night as I was watching it, G sleeping next to me, two particular ideas from the following quote resonated with me:
It’s been quite difficult for me to adjust to living here in Chile and accept what my life now looks like compared to what it looked like when I was back home. What’s been most difficult has been the uncertainty about my future, especially my career. I have this familiar paranoia that continues to walk around with me in that I can’t decide if my inability to adjust is something about ME or if the circumstances I willingly chose to be a part of are making it difficult to progress.
Only two ideas from the lines above are ones that make me think:
2) why am I so unwilling to embrace this life, what it looks like now and who I am as I live it?
What is it that I see in other women here that makes me think my reality is so grossly different from theirs? In fact, I’ve spoken to many of them who have told me that they too had a difficult time adjusting to living in Chile at first, and when they hear me complain or see me wanting to bang my head against the wall over the idiosyncrasy of the Chilean culture, I know I’m generally preaching to the choir. There’s nothing I’m currently going through, or have gone through in the last 14 months, that they have not also experienced and ultimately accepted or overcome. In fact, even this past Friday as we were all out celebrating a Gringa friend’s birthday, I was sitting there talking to the birthday girl and she said to me, “Do you ever look around and think ‘wait, what am I doing here? How and when did I end up living in Chile?'” Um, yes, that notions sounds vaguely familiar to me. But it got me thinking: she, like other gringa friends, have been here much longer than I have, yet for the most part, if not completely, they live happy lives here. But even so, just as my friend made me realize with her rhetorical question, they too must stop every once and a while and think, “how did I get here?”
The devil’s advocate in me (or the pessimistic, masochistic side of me – your choice) then remembers that most of the women I’m friends with here aren’t really, truly here for the long-term. Eventually, as their plans unfold, they’ll make their way back home, husbands in tow. They’ll carry with them the adventure they had of living in another country, surviving and excelling in said country (in this case, Chile of course) and all the bad memories and experiences of adapting will become examples, anecdotes or memories of how living abroad shaped their current and/or future plans and selves. I compare that to my reality and realize, I don’t have that luxury. I made the decision to leave everything I’ve ever known, everything that ever meant anything to me, every last memory and experience I was ever a part of, and start my life literally ALL OVER AGAIN, in a foreign country. And the thing is, there is no going back. At least, not in a way that I would willingly choose.
And in my head I wonder, over and over again, would Chile seem so difficult if I knew that at some point down the line, I’d be back home again, better than ever because I’d be with my husband, the person I adore most in this world? I don’t have the answer, nor can I pretend to know what it’s like for others…but from this perspective I think that would be an important secret to embracing life in a different country. I don’t know what it’s like for my friends here, what it’s been like or what other people experience here and I’m not saying that what I write here is the truth. Really, it’s just a thought.
As for point #2 above, I began to really, truly analyze: what makes my life so uncomfortable here that I am so far removed from accepting who I am and where I am now that I live here? I still can’t put a name on it but I can describe it as this: I feel like I’m redoing the period of my life post-college graduation, when I had no idea where I was going, what would become of me or why it seemed that my peers had their sh*t together and I didn’t. In short, I feel like I’m experiencing my quarter-life crisis all over again, meanwhile I’m actually heading into my mid-30s! Wikipedia lists a variety of characteristics of this social and cultural phenomenon we know as the quarter-life crisis and you can see them all here. However in my case, I can call out the following as relevant:
* confronting their own mortality [i.e. realizing that I’m not getting any younger and I have a list of accomplishments that seem to just be sitting there, not transforming themselves into reality.]
* insecurity regarding the fact that their actions are meaningless [This might have more to do with a certain quest I’m on that so far, has proved fruitless. Also, school.]
* insecurity regarding present accomplishments
* disappointment with one’s job
* nostalgia for university, college, high school or elementary school life [except in my case it’s the life I left back in California]
* tendency to hold stronger opinions [fighting the power here really makes me quite obnoxious. And it’s not like I’m happy with being that way.]
* loss of closeness to high school and college friends [missing one of my good friend’s wedding this past weekend and not even KNOWING my best friend’s boyfriend = sucks.]
* financially-rooted stress [as I’ve gotten older, I have more financial responsibilities and I’m still not at the point of being able to save for, say, a home? Plus school and the final wedding payments have killed me in the last few months.]
* desire to have children [or the simple to desire to be at a place in my life where it’s a viable and intelligent option to start a family. Guess who’s not getting any younger?]
* a sense that everyone is, somehow, doing better than oneself
* frustration with social skills [it’s not that I’m awkward – I don’t think – but I do tend to have my weirdo moments in everyday Chilean encounters.]
I remember feeling many of these things and more, immediately after college. Then my career and life began to take shape and one by one, these sentiments became irrelevant. Of course, 10 points were replaced by ONE HUGE point, that being: “Waaaaaaaaaa! I want someone to love!! Waaaaaaaaaaaaaaa I’ll never find THE ONE!” And the like. Now I have the latter fantastically filled but upon moving to Chile, all of the points above made their way back into my life (como Pedro por su casa) at a time when I had completely forgotten ever feeling that way at all! Of course I wouldn’t trade what I have in my personal life right now – the fulfillment I have with the person I’ve chosen to live my life with and the relationship we have together – for more time in California, not in a million years. I accept Round 2 of the quarter-life crisis because I figure, I survived it once before (and alone at that). After all, now, I should be better equipped to give all the points above a good kick in the b*lls anyway. At some point soon, I’ll have hurdled it all and I’ll look back, wave goodbye and say “thanks for playing.”
…Geez. Had I known that my seemingly innocent choice over which DVD to watch prior to falling asleep last night would spark such an existential crisis (and consequently, a ridiculously long blog post) I would have opted for “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure” instead …