It's Okay to Hate It
“You won’t believe the divisiveness going on over here.” My mother told me during my weekly catchup sessions. It was the latest in the litany of questions, advice and commentary that I had received over the years since I moved abroad. Chief among them were “Be careful over there.” “Did you hear the news over there?” And, “Where’s that?”
But the most important thing my mother told me, just weeks after I had moved to Spain has stuck with me till this day. “Don’t come back here.” She told me this after I had recalled to her the comings and goings of my life in Madrid. But before you to jump conclusions too quickly, let me assure you that it is not what you think. She wasn’t trying to get rid of me. Instead, she was trying to encourage me to keep going and to remind me that there was nothing for me back in New Jersey, so I had better stick with it.
In any other circumstance, it would have been sage advice. I mean, who wouldn’t welcome encouragement for parents, particularly Black ones, when embarking on a journey this profound? But there was a problem that turned this simple advice into a dagger in the heart. While I had no desire to go back home, I also did not want to remain in Spain because—I hated it.
But because my mother was so proud and everyone back home was so intrigued and inspired by my journey, I didn’t want to admit it—not even to myself. So, I trudged along for three years. Moving from city to city, hoping that I would finally find what I was looking for. Hoping that I would finally find a place where I could be happy. Since returning home was not an option, I tried my best to make due.
But the thing is, no one moves abroad to make due. Whether one is making the journey as an expat or an immigrant, the general consensus is that on the other side of the plane, train or automobile will be a better more fulfilling life. Furthermore, as this is a journey that one has chosen to make, dealing with the guilt that comes from being disappointed by the experience can lead to a heartache. And if it gets too bad, sometimes even depression.
So, what is my advice to you, dear Black expat? If ever you find yourself in your space, and things just don’t seem to get going right, give yourself permission to hate it. That doesn’t mean that you will give up on your dream, even that you need to move. But holding on to the expectation that everyday life abroad is meant to be like an extended vacation will drive you mad.
It is okay to hate it, it is alright to be bored, it is perfectly acceptable to be over or underwhelmed by your new experience. The human experience is full of ups and downs and that doesn’t change just because you moved locations.
So, the next time you are having a bad day or have just come to the realization that this place isn’t for you, just remember. It is okay to hate it. I wouldn’t blame you. Sometimes that is the only thing you can do.