Dear Awkward Girl from the Suburbs: It Gets Better.
My 1 year reflection on Expat life in Buenos Aires
Today is my birthday! However, that is not really the focus of this post (though you can still feel free to send me cards and presents!). This week, June 23rd to be exact, is my 1 year anniversary as an Expat in Buenos Aires. That shit is crazy.
When I first moved here I said I would stay for a minimum of one year. One year to make the money I spent moving worth it, one year to figure out if I wanted to run home, stay longer, or change my mind completely about everything. The verdict?
I am staying.
Buenos Aires and I have a very complicated relationship. You might know a bit about this if you read my blog regularly. I have had many issues with Buenos Aires over things such as terrible customer service, impossible visa requirements, overpriced apartments, old women who look me directly in the eye and tell me I look fat, tell me I need to work less and find a man to support me, etc etc.
So why am I staying?
The truth is, despite everything, I feel better about myself and my life ever since moving here. Yes, there have been some very rough times. I have cried. I have desperately wished for a flight home. I have yelled at Argentina as if it were an asshole boyfriend who would surprise me with ice cream one day and then stand me up for a date 2 days later. Argentina hurts me sometimes. Argentina pisses me off. However, Argentina lets me be who I need to be.
Let´s rewind to Rease, ages 2-18.
Location: Suburbs of St. Louis, Missouri, meaning that as a slightly tan girl with dark features, she was “ethnic” and also the only honors kid with tattoos and way too many studded bracelets.
Athletic Ability: Can only finish the mandatory mile run in school if ice cream is promised and even then she will not cross the finish line is less than 15 minutes, usually bitching about the asthmatic kids who didn’t have to run.
Ambition: Get A’s in everything all the time and be so fantastically awesome on paper that if you were to read her permanent record your head would explode from the intelligence oozing from the pages.
Don’t get me wrong, I was a happy kid and young adult. The problem was that I have always been a crazy over-planner. I love schedules, budgets, 5-year plans and all that madness. While I was in the US, I lived for the future so much that sometimes I just forgot all about the present.
I graduated college in 2009. The year 2010 was the most challenging year of my life. If you haven’t read the details, you probably should, it would help you understand my choices a little better.
In the US, I worked as a bilingual preschool teacher and translator for a private school. I had an amazing apartment right next door. I was the youngest teacher at the school.
I could sit here and give you a myriad of reasons that would prove how successful and awesome I was at the age of 22, but seriously, who the hell cares?
I wanted more. I needed more. I moved to Buenos Aires just because I wanted to try it. So now, looking back at the last year, I can tell you a few things.
It hasn’t been easy.
A short list of frustrations, disappointments and overall epic failures:
- I came to Buenos Aires with a savings account full of money I had saved for years. I don’t even have a savings account anymore.
- I wear a size 9 but I have yet to find a pair of jeans that I can pull past my thighs.
- I have held 5 different jobs in 1 year.
- I spent Christmas sweating my ass off in 100 degree weather while it snowed in my hometown, something that never happens on Christmas.
- I missed All Day Cookie Weekend, a tradition my mom and I have carried on for my entire life.
- Not a single one of my friends or family members has been able to afford to visit me.
- It took me 5 months to get a work visa. It was expensive, stressful and the whole process is largely responsible for the draining of my savings.
Now for a list of reasons why my life is better here:
- I still get to be a workaholic, but I am testing out different talents. Instead of having to pick just one passion, I get to work on this
website, do freelance writing and virtual assistant services, teach private preschool lessons, and still hold a full time office job that keeps me legal and allows me to interact with awesome coworkers.
- I relax a little easier. I am still not great at relaxing, but being here has really helped me work on that flaw.
- I have actually been described as a positive person multiple times. I have always been a pessimist. I have always had friends and been outgoing, but I have always hated people so much, that I didn’t make as many new friends as I should have. As an expat, you are really thrown into a world of ever-changing relationships and you have to bond and make friendships whenever you can.
- People finally see me as an athlete. Do you hear that, chubby Rease from the suburbs? Future Rease kicks ass in half marathons, boot camp classes and can run a 8:35 mile! Don´t worry, ice cream is still a very important aspect of life.
- My Spanish is freaking fantástico. I was fluent before I moved here, but I definitely didn’t know how to make phone calls about health insurance and bank accounts, nor did I know nearly as much slang.
I have no idea how much longer I will stay here, but for now, this is my home. That being said, I couldn’t be more excited about spending 6 weeks in the US this August and September. Being away from my friends has been the hardest part of this transition and I cannot wait to see them, take serious advantage of free refills in restaurants, and buy some jeans for my big American ass.