12 years abroad: I finally found my purpose

I don’t know why, although I can make some assumptions, these expat diaries blog posts have remained prevalent over the years, particularly among Greeks of my generation. The 2008 financial crisis is now well behind us, but Greece is still grappling with its aftermath. Despite the politicians’ attempts to depict Greece as a modern and prosperous country, it is, by many accounts, not so much. It is still a beautiful country, though. Admittedly, several Greeks who had emigrated for work have returned home, and I can definitely understand why. It has to do with their own purpose.

I have explained in my previous posts how my life abroad improved over the years. I landed better jobs, resided in several countries, and finally settled down in Luxembourg. It has been my new home since 2019. Dora and I moved in together just a few months after we met, and in 2020, I proposed to her. In 2021, we got married, both officially in Luxembourg and symbolically in Budapest, where she is from. In 2022, our son Noah was born. At last, I had everything I ever wanted: a good job, a great marriage, and a healthy child. And we could travel again.

However, I came to the realization that I have always been anxious about what was next. It isn’t a loud anxiety, but rather a subtle one. It has persistently occupied my mind with unpleasant thoughts and suggestive fears, like baits in the water, waiting for me to bite and get carried away forcefully like an unlucky fish, fighting to liberate myself. I had been anxious about getting a higher-paying job, saving enough money, travelling a lot, not working long hours, and still ensuring a thriving career. For us from working-class and low-middle class families, with no safety net, and particularly for us who were in our 20s when the financial crisis struck Greece, a prosperous career and adequate finances are not just aspirations; they represent a security issue.

I thought that having enough resources would make the underlying anxiety vanish, but it’s still there. Now it’s about taking care of my family and raising Noah. I need to provide for my family, not in a patriarchal manner, but in a manner that expresses my love and my desire to do the best I can for them.

In 2022, I came to the realization that no external circumstances could ensure I can be happy and free of anxiety. It begins (it always did) with my mind. An anxious mind is like a wild horse. You can build a beautiful stable, acquire the highest quality grass, purchase the most expensive saddle. The horse won’t care; it will only want to roam free.

To eliminate anxiety and discover happiness, I had to give the horse the illusion of freedom by loosening the rope, so it could run around, and gradually tighten it, bringing it closer. I had to train my mind.

That’s what I’ve been doing with meditation and a psychotherapist. I feel a lot calmer and more confident in my abilities as a husband and father. In May, I will begin my six-month parental leave, a benefit that doesn’t even exist in Greece.

Luxembourg is where Noah was born, and apart from the fact that we live and work there, he has no real connection to it. We could relocate to Hungary or Greece, and he wouldn’t even remember Luxembourg. He can’t even obtain citizenship until he’s 12 years old. Yet, Luxembourg will always be a part of his European identity. It is a place populated mostly by expats and immigrants, genuinely multicultural, where people speak Luxembourgish, French, German, English, Portuguese, Italian, and numerous other languages. While Noah will eventually learn both Hungarian and Greek, English will be his primary language.It is the language we use in our household.

International couples like us are becoming more common, especially in places with a high concentration of expats and immigrants. It’s a unique experience for children to be born with immediate ties to multiple countries, resulting in them being multilingual by default. My guess is this may even give rise to a new field in Social Sciences.

After 12 years of living abroad, it is not about me anymore; it is about Noah. He will grow up in a world that is vastly different from the one we grew up in. Technological advancements and climate change will impact how he connects with people and his environment in ways we may not even be able to imagine.

In the past, parents wanted their children to become lawyers or doctors, but it is now unclear how safe these professionals are from the long arm of artificial intelligence. I would prefer it if Noah became a surfer instructor, a rainforest guide, or simply traveled the world with the money we will have saved by then for him.

I have spent 12 years abroad, starting from a very low-paid job and slowly working my way up the corporate ladder, only to realize that what I was truly after was a sense of purpose. With no intention to disrespect anyone’s ambitions, my professional or financial success never came with a deep sense of fulfillment. Materialistic success can help us enjoy some costly pleasure and ease some pain from unexpected events, but it is not as meaningful as emotional success. This came when Noah completed the picture of my life. I now have my purpose.

Through the years, a number of people, who read my “Expat Diaries” posts, wrote to me for advice whether they should relocate in search of a better life. I always gave them the same answer: it depends on what you truly want.

My true purpose was unclear to me 12 years ago, but I still found it. I hope everyone can experience the same kind of luck and fulfillment in their own lives, wherever they choose to live.

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