Most people in their late twenties experiment what I would call a “mid mid life crisis”. They studied for ever, finally got the first real job that matter, then get bored and feel they need a change. While most people in this situation would react by changing job or having a baby or even starting a new hobby, the kind of people that I am – people that have lived abroad, just think: “I need to move to another country”. As if changing country would solve anything.
A childhood friend of mine, who lived in New York for years and came back to Paris a year ago, recently confessed that she found it nearly impossible to make holes in her walls to hang posters, paintings or pictures. She just cannot do it. I went to her place last weekend. The walls were totally blank, and frames were displayed on the floor, waiting to be hung. It made me realise that although I have lived in the same apartment for 4 years, I still haven’t made any hole in the walls either. Like my friend’s, my walls are blank. Actually, looking back at the 4 places I lived since I left my parents’ place, I realised I never made holes in the walls at any of these places. I never paid much attention to the decoration either. As if all those places where just temporary.
But when does temporary stop being temporary? Are we, the expat generation, doomed to moving from one country to another until we find our dream land? And if we don’t, will we be frustrated our whole life long, always keeping in the back of our mind that life could be better in another country?
Always ready to pack and head to another exotic destination, I think that’s how many young expats in Brussels feel. People come and go. Every year, some decide to go back to their home country while some decide to start all over again in another foreign country. And others stay. I remember a former Dutch colleague of mine, a man in his early forties, telling me he had always considered Brussels as a temporary location. Until one day he realised he had been there for 15 years, and that it might mean that Brussels was actually not temporary anymore. Yet I could sense that the fact he had been living in Brussels for 15 years, did not convince him that Brussels had become his permanent residence. As if he couldn’t accept to be tied forever to one location only.
This post is also available in: French