I left America in September of 2015 mentally and emotionally broken and in dire need of a fresh start. I told myself that by leaving, I was fulfilling a lifelong dream. But in reality I was also running away from a life that reeked of stagnation. I wanted to live–really live. I yearned to break all the routines I had come to rely on and start anew. Becoming an expat was the best way I could think to challenge myself.
And boy, was I challenged. And enlightened. And rejuvenated.
Tomorrow evening, I finally return home rested, restored, and most of all, happy. Grateful to all the forces in the universe that conspired to gift me with an experience that I couldn’t have even conceived of.
And thankfully, I now feel ready to return home and face everything that had sent me packing before. This newfound confidence is mainly grounded in the fact that I know that my tenure in the US will be temporary. I will go back, set things in order and return to Europe untethered. Free now to roam the world without the darkness of things unsettled looming in the back of my mind.
But there was a problem. A huge problem actually. The country I left is not the one I’ll be returning to.
To give some context, I have to be honest. I never thought that I’d live to see a Black president. In fact, I didn’t think America would ever have a Black president. Everything in my experience until that point had taught me that despite all of the “so-called” progress, America would never see Black people as fully human or fully equal. Part of me still believes this. But eight years ago, I had to admit that I was wrong–at least about the president part.
As is such, I’d always respected President Obama regardless of whether or not I agreed with his policies. He was elegant, dignified and frankly, cool. I thought he made our country seem the same–at least on the surface.
And until January, I took a lot of pride in the fact that the president’s family looked like me. As a black expat, they were a useful point of reference when I responded to people who asked me where my family was really from. Because, apparently, Estados Unidos didn’t suffice as an answer.
The country I left is not the one I’ll be returning to.
But on November 8th, everything changed. I spent most of that morning crying and avoiding my Spanish coworkers. Many of whom found the election results humorous. They assured me that he couldn’t do “all those crazy things” I told them that I wasn’t sure of anything anymore.
I recovered that evening drinking wine straight from the bottle and doing yoga. Still, I couldn’t fully take it in. Despite all the country’s faults, I never believed that we could stoop so low.
I stayed in this haze of disbelief until the inauguration. And by the time the travel ban was enacted, I had checked out. Not only was this man as bad as I thought he was going to be–he was worse. So, I knowingly choice to exercise my privilege as an expat distance myself as far away emotionally as I was physically. I didn’t have to think about Donald Trump if I didn’t want to I told myself. And I didn’t want to. So, I didn’t.
But now that’s no longer an option. I finally decided to stop running away, only to be faced with problems much bigger than my own.
So, what will I do? I don’t know. There are no easy answers for any of us, now. Most of America has been living with this man for nearly six months. I’ m only beginning to get back into the fold. But I know this for sure: I am ready, willing and able to challenge, endure and resist.