Sometimes I wonder if I’d be working on two books right now if I was still living in the U.S. I’m sure I’d be thinking about writing one, but I have a feeling life would have gotten in the way.
Before I moved abroad, I worked 50-60 hours a week as a copywriter, taught as an adjunct at the local university one night a week, contributed to the arts & culture section of a local newspaper, and also managed to find the time to sing in a choir.
Going abroad has taught me that other cultures are less work-crazy than mine. It has taught me to pace myself. That free time matters. While I sit down every weekday and write, I have learned to be a nicer boss to myself because otherwise I just end up feeling anxious and overwhelmed: in other words, I end up feeling American.
The culture, at least in most of Europe, is more relaxed than the United States. On Sundays in Switzerland, nothing is open except bakeries and cable car lifts. You are expected to either walk in the woods or linger over a coffee. I’m finally getting good at both. While I still get caught up in the whole American “if I’m not busy then I’m not worthy” sentiment, for the most part, I’m learning to take things one step (and one chapter) at a time.
When I hear from family back home that some stores will be open on Thanksgiving and that some offices are no longer honoring holidays such as Christmas, since their partner offices around the world may not also close on that day, I feel sad. I hope Americans will fight back. Maybe not as intensely as the French. But a little of the French “free time is sacred” spirit couldn’t hurt. Because if the U.S. is the land of the free, then why is everyone chained to their desks?
Did you go abroad as a writer or did going abroad make you a writer?