Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Fantasy vs Reality: Other Cultures "Doing It Better"

My good friend recently came across this article from Vogue about a woman who moves to Paris with her two small children only to have her Francophile dreams crushed under the reality that the French have not yet found the miracle cure for motherhood. What a shocker. What's even more shocking is that this isn't the only French-have-it-figured-out text I encountered this week, another friend was reading a titillating book called French Twist (and loving it). And, frankly, after watching Sicko, Mr A and I were ready to pack up and move to France too.

I could write an entire post about my conflicted feelings for the Pacific Northwest

All joking aside, I've held onto a very real, far-off dream that someday I will (temporarily) whisk my family away to a foreign country. Something short-term, but still longer than a vacation. Basically, I want to do what I did as a wild & free young adult, but share that exhilaration and heartache with the people dearest to me. Culture shock is more tolerable as a group catharsis. I also admit that I share many of the same aspirations Ms Senna talked about, exposing my children to a more worldly perspective and lifting the veil of their rather sheltered American upbringing. Actually, I could argue that is precisely why we are raising them in Hawaii and not Wisconsin.

culture shock in Japan hurt the worst because I was terribly naive & my fantasy was totally delusional

Bringing Down Bebe reads like a warning manual on the dangers of putting all your eggs into one charmingly handcrafted basket. A new culture, a new perspective, is certainly refreshing and can help brush the dust off of latent insights on our own world. However, it is naive to assume that these cultures are prescriptive and can be applied universally as a means to a fantastic end.

Thailand - the experience was aided by the absence of any expectations

Hawaii is particularly susceptible to this kind of bloated expectation, being that it is a "paradise" and I think many people move here in search of that ideal. Some actually find it - their quality of life improves and they discover deeper meaning on the white sandy beaches - and some leave grossly disappointed and disillusioned, unable to reconcile the fantasy with the reality of things like meth addiction, gasoline prices, and a teeny weeny job market.

by the time I got to Hawaii, I was better equipped to deal with disappointment

I hope that someday my dream will come true and we will all be fumbling our way through a foreign land together. But I'm certainly not going to assume that we will stumble upon the secret to happiness in a quaint little bazaar. In fact, if we come home with minor psychological damage and a few inside jokes about regional cuisine, I will consider the experience a win.

Years ago, a good friend told me (as her parting words of wisdom before I left for study-abroad) - "your life is your life, no matter where you live." This is truth. Certainly, different places have touched me in different ways, some being more compatible than others. But, the cultivation of happiness and satisfaction with myself needs to be happening within me, so that when the time comes, that light can shine in whichever community I choose to live.

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