I am not a migrant. I am a first-generation love immigrant who followed her heart -and the man who was holding it captive. I came to America from a wealthy West-European country, a land that granted fantastic healthcare to everybody. I didn’t know what co-pay was, could get my teeth fixed, my eyes checked, and had a yearly physical from an early age.
I was a student at one of the best universities in Austria and didn’t pay a penny. Nobody, who is qualified to study does, yet not everybody is permitted, some, regardless of how much money their parents have, are just not college material.
A nation with mouthwatering dishes, but laws that required something healthy and affordable on every menu as well. A homeland where I was allowed to drink alcohol and smoke cigarettes, at the same age when I was declared mature enough to vote.
A country with very affordable healthcare, majestic mountains, and the most beautiful lakes. A land where news was not entertainment, but only meant to give facts and information to everybody. Cities and villages, where the stores closed Saturday at 2 pm and reopened Monday in the morning.
Yet, I came here and by doing so I opened my heart to America and its people.
I was open-minded by nature, willing to learn not just a new language but also unknown customs and traditions, and I wanted to know more about the history of its people and the land. I fell in love with the land and the people in it.
Ten years later, when I spoke the language fairly well and had accepted some odd things like fast food, salad dressings in a bottle, and obesity, and when I had adjusted my life to missing bike trails, bigger portions, and flawed or non-existing transportation systems, I said: “I do.”
Taking on the citizenship of a country you were not born into is a lot like the commitment to marriage.
For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health,
to love and to cherish, until parted by death.
It’s a pledge meant to last a lifetime, a commitment to be taken seriously in all aspects of life no matter what. And so I became an American, as proud as I can be, but kept of course my own citizenship as well.
Unconditional love. I accepted the flaws, the good, the bad, and the ugly. There is no perfect relationship, it’s all about dedication and the willingness to work through tough times.
My new homeland. There was much I could not understand, and much I refused to accept. Yet, I made it work. Happiness is a choice, and so is selective blindness.
My husband, who was born and raised in the USA, is proud to be an American. He loves this country as much as he loves me, perhaps even more. On every national holiday he gets the flag out of the attic and displays it proudly on the flag pole we attached to the house right after we moved in. The flag can’t stay outside all year long, it gets stolen, even though we live in a nice neighborhood.
My husband and I feel each other, and talk without words, like many couples who have been married for a very long time. We are two individuals who could not be more different, but somehow over the years, we became one.
I could tell something inside him had shifted but could not pinpoint it -to be honest I didn’t even try. I was busy with my own feelings. My unconditional love for this country had been tested numerous times.
The first time, many years ago, was when my husband was held at gunpoint by a kid, who wanted his wallet. In a country with more guns than citizens, every crook can get a weapon easily and my husband had become the target one night when he opened the sliding glass door on the ground floor of a hotel. It terrified me, and my husband’s reaction to it frightened me even more. (He didn’t give the kid the wallet).
When the mass shootings started and young innocent children lost their lives, I cried like all Americans did, but when the tears dried and nothing changed, I could not go back to pretending to understand and accept.
Three years later, in 2015 when the election spectacle started, when disrespect and hatred were so openly displayed, the questions inside me got louder. Just like in a relationship with people, my willingness to overlook the flaws evaporated, instead I saw the weaknesses and shortcomings of this country clearer -and concentrated on them.
Am I happy where I am? Do I want to stay for the rest of my life?
I suppose these are the question one asks when you think about separation or even divorce from a spouse. The same questions came to my mind. Do I want to stay in the United States of America or do I want to separate?
My home is where my husband is but how much more of this can I take and how does he feel about it deep down?
Racism, alternative facts (?), sensationalism, religious fanatism, hatred, mass shootings, intolerance, bigotry and so much more. Sadly a very long list. Watching the storm at the Capitol was one of the worst moments in our lifetime. We sat in front of the TV and watched in disbelief. Frozen, fearful, stunned, disappointed, disgusted, we felt helpless. Is a country where half the people refuse to accept the outcome of a democratic election still a democracy? More questions. More fear, more tears, more disbelief.
The grass is not greener on the other side, it just looks that way. I know this as well. Not all is good in other countries either.
In just two and a half years, my husband will be eligible to retire and recently we started to talk about it. We always knew we would not stay in Ohio, we came here because he got a very good job offer. In two years, right at the same time my husband will retire, I will get a somewhat big check from a life insurance company. One of my previous European employers had insisted I signed up for it almost forty years ago. I am so glad they did that for me and all their other employees. A few years later my pension will kick in and I will be able to retire as well -if I want to.
We have been making plans. Where will we be moving to?
Colorado, New Hampshire, Main, South Carolina? So many states were an option.
We are not asking for much. We want to buy or rent a small ranch house for us and our dog(s). Perhaps purchase a new car, possibly even an RV -depending on the gas prices. I would love to have mountains nearby, and a beach or a lake within reasonable driving distance. We discussed what we were looking for, and what we were secretly dreaming about.
We have the same wishes:
A place where we will be safe!
A place with a good life quality!
A place where there is peace!
A place where people are friendly!
A place where people get along!
My husband said it first, and it took me by surprise. I didn’t see it coming, yet I should have.
“Why don’t we enjoy our golden years overseas?”
I didn’t say much. I wasn’t ready, had never even thought about it.
We both did a lot of soul-searching and questioning lately. We researched possibilities, watched Youtube movies and documentaries, listened to Supreme Court rulings, and mourned again when little children were shot. Most countries will welcome us with open arms. Our income qualifies us for a retirement visa pretty much everywhere, and my European passport is welcomed within the European Union.
Our minds are made up.
In 2024, we will move to Dublin, Ireland, and rent a flat or house first. My husband’s roots are Irish. He wants to explore the land of his forefathers and his excitement is contagious. From there we will travel to Portugal, Spain, some of the Spanish Islands, Austria, Italy, and Croatia to name just a few. After that, we will decide where we will settle down and enjoy our golden years -hopefully for a very long time.
We will be leaving the United States!
It will not be a divorce, but a separation, perhaps forever maybe only for a couple of months.