TALES OF A PROFESSIONAL FOREIGNER
BY DAVE MANGENE
…I wrote the introduction to this book ten months ago. In it, I posed the following question: have I done everything I need to do to make my journey complete? In other words, have I “found myself” in becoming, and being, a professional foreigner? Have I become comfortable with who I am?
The honest answer is no.
It’s true. Today, as I sit and type these words, on a quiet Sunday evening, my youngest son asleep on the couch and my oldest hanging out with his girl, I am no more comfortable with myself today than I was the day I moved to Europe.
The truth is that I have never “found” myself.
I have never become “comfortable” with myself.
At least not always. Some days I am very at home in my own skin and life is easy as a Sunday morning. Twenty-four hours later I am a basket case of gut-wrenching anxiety. That’s the way the cookie crumbles. I go back and forth between war and peace, with myself and the world around me, on a daily basis. It’s one of the reasons I’ve always been skeptical of those personality tests companies employ in order to deem workers a certain color. One day I’m red, the next day I’m blue, the next day I’m green. I’m never one color for very long. The experts will tell you that we all have one prominent color at the core of our being, but it doesn’t feel that way to me.
So I haven’t found myself and I’m not comfortable with myself. So what? I am okay with it. It’s not a source of unhappiness for me as I’ve come to realize that this is par for the course in my game of life.
Here’s what my never-ending journey as professional foreigner has taught me, after all the trips, all the moves, all the airplanes, all the new schools, all the new friends: when it comes to the endlessly sticky business of our “selves”… there is nothing to find. Nothing to discover.
I am here and this is me.
I am hot and I am cold.
I’m up and I’m down.
East and then West and… that’s all there is to be found.
I will never “find” myself. I will never be completely “comfortable”. All these dizzying runs around the sun have shown me the only truth a professional foreigner, or any honest person, will ever know:
Being “comfortable” is not the end game. Finding “myself “ is not the destination. I accept that a peaceful easy feeling will not be sustainable and that’s a good thing. I won’t try to take the edge off, because that edge is my USP. That struggle, that friction, that hustle, that’s as close to me as I’m ever gonna get. It’s as close to you as you’re ever gonna get. Whatever we may discover, let’s agree on this: take it as it comes, because it only comes once. Or, in the immortal words of the comedian Bill Hicks, when speaking to the so-called meaning of life…
“It’s just a ride.”
So ride it.
But for the love of God, live it.
Having said that, please don’t confuse my lack of comfort, or lack of finding myself, as the same as saying that life has no meaning. I am not one of these nihilist zombies who preaches (before selling you a 600 dollar self-improvement seminar) that “life is empty and meaningless and it’s empty and meaningless that it’s empty and meaningless…”.
No way, dude. Life has meaning. The way I feel about my two sons has meaning. The way I feel about my girlfriend has meaning. My work? My friendships? My family? Chock full of meaning. I also happen to think that the pursuit of meaning during our precious little time on earth is well worth it. It’s a noble quest. All I’m saying is the pursuit, thankfully, does not have to be comfortable…