If I Lived in the States…

10 Jan

Riding home on the Subte today I saw some other people my age, all of us collectively dressed well but casually. In the summer heat of Buenos Aires, it’s okay to go to the office in a pair of khakis and a button down. Depending on the company you work for you can go untucked or even in jeans. Girls can wear a nice skirt or pair of pants. Guys always have half of the shirt unbuttoned. After a year and a half here, I’ve only gotten myself down to a quarter unbuttoned, after finally getting rid of the old fashioned undershirt.

I thought for a minute about what it is like for these young workers to head home after work. What do they do? Do they meet up with old friends, go to the gym, read a book? Cook dinner, eat with the family, play a sport? I only wonder because I have no idea what my own friends back home do after work. Since I never worked a full time job out of college in the United States, the idea of it is as foreign to me as my foreign status has been for the last two and a half years. People don’t earn well here on a comparable scale, but living with your parents until late into your 20s has benefits in that you save money. I wonder what I would have done had I not moved to Latin America.

I had no idea what to think. The sliding doors jolted shut and we moved off into the dark tunnel again, and I had to seriously think hard. I studied journalism because I like to write and history because the subject interested me. But I never had much of an inclination to be a history teacher nor a legit journalist at a newspaper, but it was living abroad and doing whatever, or a search for adventure, which intrigued me. I guess that’s why I’m still living here. For lack of something better to do back home. What on earth would I do, were I still living in Boston?

Would I be at some random company in a random office, riding the T every day, going home to the suburbs and my parents house, going to the gym, grabbing beers with the old friends on the weekends? Or would I have eventually moved into the city like everyone else and spent whatever money I made on rent. Maybe I’d make more money than here, but I wouldn’t be making 6 figures. Not as a writer, no way. Would I even be a writer? I just keep going back to that because I really have no idea what my life would have been like if I didn’t come here. I wouldn’t have eventually been geared towards international relations and would always have wondered about “what if?”

Sometimes I really feel envious of my friends, knowing that they’re furthering their careers and saving up money while I scrape by every month, thinking of how I’ll enter grad school broke while others in my position will at least have something to get by. I think of them enjoying their early-mid 20s with each other, growing in different ways while experiencing the most of their country. I miss out on that, but I also have a completely unique experience which is one to be envied by many. It’s difficult in so many ways and at times I’m left to wish for a speedy return, but taking a step back while on the Subte I thought that yes, this is an experience worth going through. Despite the fact that I’ll enter grad school with as much money as when I left college (less actually), you can’t take money with you, and if you lose everything, you at least still have your memories.

I often feel like I’ve gone sideways rather than straight up the ladder, not ascending from college to a job in the traditional sense. Something about living abroad just makes it less of a reality. One day I’ll be back in the United States going over forms and taxes, but I’ll always have Latin America where no one else can get it.

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5 Responses to “If I Lived in the States…”

  1. gonefromthenest January 10, 2011 at 10:31 pm #

    I absolutely love this post. You just reaffirmed what i’ve already felt and experienced. Experiences have nothing on money.

    • Jon January 11, 2011 at 8:11 am #

      Thanks! I’ve written about this kind of thing in previous posts as well. In the moment I often forget that what I’m doing is totally different, but taking a step back always helps to put things into perspective.

  2. Justin January 12, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    There are a handful of us around the world who choose this strange side-step for whatever reasons. For me, life just seems richer out there and I get more out of it. I came back for five months to regroup, visit and make a new plan, only to discover I don’t fit in here like I used to — maybe the puzzle changed, but more likely it was the shape of the piece.

    Best of luck in grad school when you get there! Will you continue to blog through grad school?

    • Jon January 12, 2011 at 10:23 pm #

      What’s your next plan, JB? Heading south any time soon? Of course I’ll continue to blog through school though maybe a bit less frequently and on different topics. But there will no doubt be reverse culture shock to write about for the first few months. How are you holding up?

      • Justin January 13, 2011 at 12:37 pm #

        I’m actually heading back to Taiwan to look for work. I would have loved to make it down there and even looked into flights at one point, but plans have changed and I have to get a job.

        Yeah, I think you’ll definitely have some culture shock to write about. I’m doing well. 2011 should be an interesting year, lots of changes.

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