|August 8, 2017||4 Comments|
Perhaps I’ve always made choices which were not exactly what most of society would call ‘traditional’ or ‘safe’. Or maybe I just come off as a bit of an odd ball or misfit to some people. Perhaps what is really going on is that I am looking for a reason why during many of the new phases of my life there has usually been someone on the scene trying to take the joy out of it for me. Most recently, I’ve come to Costa Rica for the winter to start a new life with my partner and to discover what I should be doing next professionally. Specifically, I aim to completely revamp my way of living by going from a very corporate driven, specific job function to one that is more entrepreneurial and creative. Why I would think that this would be a widely accepted move among family and peers, I will never know. Each time I have explained to someone what I would be doing in the early part of 2012, I only received one of two reactions. “Good for you. That is so cool and truly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Go for it!” Or I would get the following: “__________”. Nothing. Dead air. No expression. No dialog. I’ve come to call this reaction ‘the dead stare.’
Since then, some have claimed that the dead stare to be a reaction of concern for my well-being while others who are actually in favor of my adventure have suggested that the dead stare is mere jealousy. I suppose I should be flattered either way, but I just can’t seem to get myself there. Personally, I think that people simply don’t understand me. Should I have shared my entire situation with those who were providing the dead stare? For example, would it help them to know that I have zero debt, money in my savings account and am overall really very happy; or how about the fact that my partner and I have been talking about doing something like this for years now? Not to mention that I have no mortgage, no children and am not responsible for anyone’s well-being but my own. But is all of this really anyone’s business? If they feel it is, then why hasn’t anyone just come out and asked?
If anyone is in fact jealous, shouldn’t they become introspective and ask themselves why and what it is that they are possibly missing out on and perhaps searching for in their own situation? I can honestly say that there are people doing this type of thing more often than most people where I come from think. My partner and I have been coming to Costa Rica for years. It started out as us really enjoying it as a vacation spot and we ended up purchasing a small place a couple of years ago. In that time I have met more interesting people who have either done what we are doing; come here during the cold winters of the U.S. and live back in North America when the Spring and Summer have returned; or have uprooted themselves altogether and decided to make a go of living here permanently. There are people coming to Costa Rica all the time who are from all different backgrounds, situations and nationalities just because they love it here.
Only the other day I met a wonderful woman from the Mid-West in the United States. In 1972 as a new graduate of college, she set out on establishing herself in her chosen career. She was bright and smart and people liked her. Within a short amount of time, she was traveling every other week and beginning to make a name for herself. Within two years she found herself settled into her career at exactly the place she had been planning for while she was going to school with the exception of one thing: she wasn’t enjoying what she was doing. At the age of 24 years old she was making more money in her field than most of her peers were making in theirs. She was pretty quickly seeing most of the United States and had even been sent to Europe a couple of times.
Most people viewed her as really successful and thought of her as ungrateful when she spoke of her dissatisfaction. She couldn’t put a finger on what exactly was dissatisfying about her life, but when she read something in the newspaper about the Peace Corp she signed up immediately. Her first assignment was to teach English in Costa Rica and she has been here ever since. She stayed with the Peace Corp for a couple of years and then eventually she changed her career, married a Costa Rican man and had children with him. She loves the people and the culture here. She is extremely happy with the way the Costa Rican culture influenced her children while she was raising them and she has become completely bi-lingual and is very well adjusted. She seems to be quite familiar with the dead stare even to this day. She says that some people, family and peers alike, have still not accepted her decision to live in Costa Rica.
She has been here for almost FORTY years and she still gets the dead stare! She fully admits that had she moved back to the United States she would likely be a far wealthier woman, but I have to disagree. She has none of the angst of the business pace of the United States and she certainly doesn’t look like she’s been here for forty years. She’s aged well and seems to be totally at peace with herself, her decision, her family and her life despite the dead stare. Perhaps she would have had more ‘Colones’ (Costa Rican currency) in the bank, but one cannot measure one’s wealth by Colones alone.
My mother had a very dear friend who had what became between me and my mother, a very famous expression: “Honey, sometimes people just want to see you drunk and in the gutter”. Shocking coming from someone who was always so positive, up-beat and well put together. I think that perhaps she had experienced a very low point in her life and realized that there were actually people who were relieved it wasn’t them when they looked at her. I think that on the receiving end of that it felt like they were relishing in her failure. Fortunately, this motivated her and she became one of the most admirable matriarchs aside from my own mother whom I have ever known. Her theory was that people who want to see you drunk and in the gutter either a.) Don’t understand you or b.) Are jealous of you. She solved the mystery of the dead stare long before it came into existence for me! She would say “If people don’t understand you, they can say ‘see that – now it all makes sense; this person is just a drunk!’; if they are jealous of you, then they can say that they are no longer jealous because after all, you are ‘just a drunk’ – and to put some emphasis on it they say you are also ‘in the gutter”.
The night before my partner and I left the United States to try out living (and working by the way) our first full winter in Costa Rica, I received a phone call from my brother (alpha male; considers himself head of the family; etc. etc.). I hadn’t had a true conversation with him in probably over a year. He began listing all of his concerns about me leaving and choosing to go on this adventure. The range of his concerns went from the fact that my partner (also alpha male) and I aren’t married (although we’ve been together for over seven years) to what I might be giving up just to be able to do this. He had actually chosen to end the dead stare and end the silence between us the night before my flight! The ironic thing was that for once I had no response. There was no desire on my part to explain any of my actions or provide a resolution to any of his concerns. I suppose I had had enough of the dead stare and now I was receiving it again and could hear it in his tone over the phone. “Are you there?” he asked. “I’m talking and talking and you aren’t saying anything” he continued. “I’ve heard every word you’ve said” I responded. “I don’t know Robert.” I said further “All I can say is that honey, at least I’m not drunk and in the gutter!” and then I promptly hung up the phone.
As the first week passed, in fact even as the first few days went by, I could feel the bits and pieces of the negative conversation leave me a little at a time. Every dead stare I received before leaving the U.S. felt like a thing of the past no longer important and from a long time ago. In the two hours a day that I write while sitting in the outdoors I must see at least fifty butterflies of all different shapes, sizes and colors. I hear and see more species of birds in one afternoon than I have in my entire lifetime. My partner and I are greeted by the friendly Costa Rican people whenever we are going for a walk or shopping for groceries. We are treated like we are one of the locals even though at one glance anyone can tell that we are not. Everything we eat is freshly picked, caught or slaughtered practically the same day that we buy it. We have our pick of beaches where each time it looks like we are on a deserted island no matter if it is mid-week or the weekend. We wake up with the sunrise and at the bellowing of the rooster across the road. At sunset we wave to the two cowboys in the neighborhood as they trot off past our house back home on their horses. If this is what it is like to be drunk and in the gutter, I don’t think I will ever leave.
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Connie, this was a candid and thought provoking piece of writing and I truly appreciate the sentiments as I have experienced similar “dead stares” many times in my life due to various decisions I had made as well. I think there is another powerful reason for this type of reactions: concern and jealousy – from many of the people around us and it is the different value system.
In the United States especially, the desire to accumulate material possessions and value others by their ability to purchase such is the foremost driving attitude. Whereas in other countries, spiritual well being, family and friendship ties, and even general social well being are placed ahead of the material accumulation. So, I think this is what drives much of the weird and unpleasant attitude we face when we decide to place these other values above the ones so cherished by this society.
October 4, 2017 at 1:35 pm
Irina! I’m so glad the article resinated with you. I used this article on an old online site I used to write for and had good feedback then when I first wrote it. I actually had several positive comments from people of all various backgrounds. Then when I started blogging for Summerland I thought it would be appropriate to post. There are so many people who simply can’t let go of what society presents to them or actually don’t follow their dreams because of what society might say about them. It is definitely part of the territory when relocating to another country. And you are right; the whole materialism vs. leading an authentic life is a huge problem in the U.S. I’m happy to have you as a kindred spirit 🙂
October 4, 2017 at 5:49 pm
To me this posting is about ‘doing what feels good/right for you’, not the parents, children or friends. When we made the decision to move to Costa Rica I don’t remember anyone giving me the blank stare or being worried that I was moving to a 3rd world country. Hell, I have been in portions of the USA that are 4th world countries! All of our people were happy for us and wanted to know more about Costa Rica so I sent them posts. Our children all knew that we were crazy, so they were happy for us. Leaving the tension of the USA and living the Pura Vita of Costa Rica iis most rewarding, but good planing and advice helps the transition immensely. Life here is much more rewarding and satisfying. Try it, you might like it!
January 8, 2019 at 4:23 pm
Thank you for your input! It’s good to hear all variations of transitional stories. Anyone relocating here will go through transition in one form or another. These stories can only help, and we think, inspire.
January 23, 2019 at 12:13 am