One invaluable lesson the financial crisis in Greece taught me, is that one can’t take anything for granted.
There are few incredibly wealthy Greeks who remain untouched by the financial crisis. I am not going to talk about them in this blog post.
Countless young Greek professionals like myself, have had to leave their lives, their homes and their families behind for a another and very uncertain life elsewhere. I uprooted my life, (again) and migrated to another country, not only for a better life but essentially to survive. If all goes well and I’m able to build a life here in the U.S, or anywhere else; I hope to move beyond surviving, and to ultimately thrive and succeed.
Going back to Greece to live and work; is not a viable option for us who left.
At least not yet.
I am far luckier than most.
With all the strides, that I have made living in New York the past five years; it has not been without its challenges. I attribute the general malaise of my fellow country men and women, not only to nostalgia or missing our homeland, but to the crude realization of having to prove ourselves somewhere else AGAIN, after having fought very hard to establish a life in a far less conducive and accepting environment.
I built a successful career in my field, and was afforded a relatively stable family and personal life, but most importantly Greece was my home. I LOVED living there. I had in general terms a good life. Despite all its craziness and complete chaos; I love Greece. Yet….most young people, (myself included when I first moved back after my studies), are endlessly discouraged by Greece’s pure lack of any provable organization, shitty public services, corrupt governance, disorganized and badly outdated infrastructure, nepotism, greed … rampant sexism, and most recently a newly emboldened racism and nationalism; the list is endless.
We all have complained, and continue to do so about how badly everything runs, how our corrupt politicians are stifling growth, entrepreneurship, and innovation. Many of the people who left, wanted to make it work in Greece. We wanted to bring our knowledge back to our homeland. I like many of my contemporaries, have had the privilege of being educated in good schools, have had contact with some amazing minds in all the fields I have worked at; (the Arts, Dance, Wellness and beyond), and have had the good fortune to be able to choose where I would like to live, but above all…. I had the ultimate “golden ticket”; an American Passport.
My privilege is not lost on me.
It has afforded much needed headway when coming to the United States to work and live after living in Greece for most of my adult life. Yet…. I am still seen as a bloody foreigner. Despite my many difficulties proving myself again as a yoga teacher, arts administrator and overall capable professional; this little title “American Citizen” protects me from far worse treatment and marginalization that many of my compatriots feel having never lived in the U.S, or any other foreign country for that matter.
When observing the difficulty my friends face when coming to the U.S for the first time, I feel immensely grateful to be able to navigate through “the system” as well as having a better understanding of the intricacies of living, operating and decoding how “the little things” work in the U.S. This is an obscure list of unwritten rules; it’s handed to us upon arrival and, we all have to follow them.
A rude awakening, to a new life.
Whatever life I left behind in Greece; losing the comfort and ease I was used to, was quite daunting at first glance. What I learned upon arrival to the U.S is that nothing of what I knew or was used to is applicable here. If I am going to survive, I must play the local game and all but forget how things worked for me “back home”. I had to go through the same “schooling” when I moved back to Greece at 22, after my studies in the U.S. The American way of life does not apply to Greek chaos… so I was called to re-calibrate how I worked “the system”, in order to survive and ultimately thrive.
This I find is the biggest gift, no matter how hard of a transition it has been. I am now fortified with the tools to be able to negotiate a productive way of life both here and in Greece. The local rules and “how things are done” are no longer a mystery, because doing things by the book in New York is only the first step to a long education about making it here, or anywhere else.
And the story continues….