To Give Up or Not to Give Up
Of the 8 hours or so today that I spent putting bottles in boxes, at least 4 were spent considering whether or not Angel and I should leave the country. Actually, more specifically, they were spent thinking that we should just leave and move back to New Zealand. Part of New Zealand's draw of course is that it's filled with places like this:
Let's face it though: there are lots of nice places all over the world, and the Pacific NW isn't half bad. It's not just about scenery.
The fact is, neither one of us likes living in the US. As all Americans well know, everyone else in the world would simply kill to live here, because it is indisputably the greatest nation on the planet, but it's just not doing it for me. I'm sick of the work culture--I've got two jobs and zero vacation time. Angel's got about three weeks (good union), but gets hassled every time she tries to actually use it (bad, but standard, employer). I'm sick of the materialism. I'm sick of the media--specifically the bizzare way that TV dominates so much of our common culture. I'm sick of our health care system. I'm sick of the religious environment. I'm sick of advertising. I'm sick of elitism. I'm sick of keeping up with so many Joneses. I'm sick of our condescending attitude towards other countries. I'm sick of our foreign policy. I'm sick of being encouraged to be afraid of everything. I'm sick of ignorant arrogance. I'm sick of loud people and loud conflicts. I don't want to deal with it anymore, and I don't want my kids to have to deal with it either. We can stay and try to help make positive contributions, but honestly America isn't going to be reformed in our lifetime, or in the lifetime of our children. It's a big ship to turn around.
Further, we loved living in NZ. There is no "work" culture--it's a vacation culture and an island time culture. We were both actually told by our employers that we needed to take our vacation time. There's less materialism--most everyone drives an old car and wears the same set of clothes 3 days of the week. The media there is less pervasive, and there's usually nothing on TV. They have universal health coverage. They don't have the same bizarre evangelicofundamentalist/conservative politics connection. They are as egalitarian a place as I've ever been. Their gov't keeps its nose out of others' business (for the most part, though there are a lot of Pacific Islanders who would dispute that.) They are self-conscious about their general lack of influence on the world stage. The people have a typical English reserve, combined with a distinctive Kiwi humility. On top of all of this, a lot of our best friends are there--more, actually, than we've got in Seattle. It's paradise for people like us. It really is. The only problem really is that they have cold houses, but we could invest in insulation.
Still though, it's just not that easy. Moving there, for one, would feel like giving up on America. There are 300 million others to pick up the slack, but still, I've got this sense of responsibility. It's also difficult to leave home. There are a lot of things I like about this country--the food, the sports, the landscape, the affordability of living, the history and the principles that "America" is supposed to stand for, the people I know. Really though, it all comes down to family. If our family wasn't here, we'd be gonzo. We want our kids to know their grandparents, and we don't want to disappoint our relatives by heading to the opposite side of the world. Neither family has the means to travel frequently, and inevitably we'd be cut off from them significantly.
Still, the decision isn't made. One thing that we've realized is that in the US, we have much less time to take vacations, so it's actually difficult to keep up with family just living in a different state. There's very little chance that we'll move back to the Midwest (even though we're not ruling anything out completely), so it's likely that we're going to be pretty well cut off no matter what. In New Zealand, we'd have a month off yearly, and it's not that expensive to get back here. A month every couple years is probably about as much time as the kids (currently non-existent) would be able to have with extended family even if we stay in the US (or move to Canada, which actually is another real option. BC is fantastic!) . I've realized that when you start travelling, you essentially have to give up on ever being completely happy where you are.