It’s hard to believe that this once was my home. Nowy Targ. A place where, at this point, I spent most of my life. As years go by, “most of my life” is turning into “half of my life” which might eventually become “a mere part of my life.” I don’t think about my past as much as I should and I attribute it to constantly being told to look into the future – finish school, so you can finally get a good job, so you can live a comfortable lifestyle, get married, raise kids, and enjoy the grandkids and retirement. 14 years later, the instructions haven’t changed, because apparently, I’ve failed to listen and make it happen. I am still in school (studied science, medicine, counseling, fitness, and now business and tech. What’s next?!), I have a job that supports not me but my hobbies, however I do live a comfortable lifestyle because I have support to support myself.
Maybe comfort is the driving force behind problems in today’s world/our society. It’s not so much that people want more money, but people want more comfort in their lives. In this nation we are conditioned to believe that more is better, so we sacrifice time for money and money for things that provide us that comfort. In the world of competitive rivalry, we strive for a larger TV or a car, or a home that doesn’t house enough people to fill it. It’s like we need all these materialistic things to validate our existence. I was sucked into this mindset when The American Dream (or rather one of its definitions) became part of my attainable reality. Looking back, my experiences here and in Poland couldn’t be any more different.
My family of five living in a 2-bedroom apartment. Doing homework on the kitchen table. Playing computer games in the same room where others were sleeping. Sharing one bathroom but also waiting for the boiler to heat up the water because someone else had used up all the hot water supply. Driving half hour to Zakopane (at that time, in kid’s eyes, it was a great distance) after school in the middle of the week because our parents wanted to treat us to happy meals at McDonald’s. Our old beat-up car breaking down and smoking in the middle of the town plaza on our way to church, then pushing it off the road in our church clothes. Blueberry picking and exercising my entrepreneurial skills selling my berries to the local ice-cream shop, then enjoying the ice cream. Weekends spent floating down the Dunajec river (photo) while dad was fishing for trout that we later smoked in our home-made backyard smoker. And many more.
It’s been 14 years since we said goodbye to that lifestyle… It’s amazing and shocking what time does. It goes so fast that it makes you forget where you came from and how far you’ve come. Or at least that’s what it’s done to me. At 15, I was ripped out of my comfort zone and implanted into an entirely foreign environment. At such a sensitive time in developmental life, longing to fit in, I was angry but I chose to adapt and become like everyone else, though differences were always ubiquitous. And they continue to be to this day. Except now, I no longer try to fit in. Now, I try to find a home, a sense of belonging or identity, a culture that I can claim ownership of. I became a US citizen last year and I will be forever grateful to the American government for allowing me this opportunity and privilege, but even though it seems that it should have given me some security in my attempts to classify myself, I still sense loss thus I immerse myself in constant exploration and search for something that will provide me ease that money will never be able to buy.
Time has been constructive. We don’t always see eye-to-eye but I admire my parents for sacrificing their lives to give me and my brothers a better shot. I see young adult Americans struggle to get out of their hometowns, while my parents, both in their 40’s just picked up and moved 3 teenagers across the world with absolutely nothing. What’s the worst that can happen, right? When you have nothing to lose, you can only win. I see my brothers thriving, one with a beautiful family and the other expanding horizons of entrepreneurship, and they both give me reasons to be proud. I look at my resume and see the diversity of experiences that have enriched my relatively short life, giving it meaning because my sole existence is validated not through things collected but times experienced and memories made.
It’s hard to imagine what my life would’ve been like had we not left Poland. Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll find my way back there again. Right now, it is what it is. Not the future. Not the past. Just the now. And it is just as beautiful.