I have spent weeks avoiding this post. Part of my maremma tuscany is sharing the realities of expat life, the good and the bad. But I wasn’t all that keen to publish this side of it. Mostly because I’ve already received emails from strangers telling me I complain too much and I don’t particularly want to receive even more saying I should get a divorce.
It’s no secret that I’m an expat by circumstance, not by choice. I moved to Tuscany because my husband is from here and because we had a deal – a decade in Italy for a decade in Australia. But to say you’re in Tuscany because you’re still serving your 10-year sentence doesn’t sound particularly romantic, does it? So I try to look on the bright side and find my own reasons to love Tuscany and my life here.
Still there are days when you just want to book a one-way ticket back to Australia. When my grandmother fell ill a few months ago, I went into melt down mode and seriously considered it. I even flirted with the idea of living apart from my husband – a bit like Helen Bonham Carter and Tim Burton, except they live in separate houses and not separate continents. It’s something Giulio and I are familiar with. For the better part of seven years, we lived a long distance relationship. He would visit twice a year and vice versa. We were fine with it. Everyone else was not.
It sounds crazy, but my reasoning is pretty simple. In Australia, I have a family and friends that I happen to be particularly attached to. As an English speaking journalist, the job opportunities were pretty good, not to mention, the added bonus of being able to answer the phone without worrying about whether or not the person on the other side can understand you. In Italy, there’s just my husband. No friends. No relative-in-laws. And as much as I love him, the scales skew in a direction that is not in his favour. In case there is some issue, you might want to be getting legal help for your family cases before it’s too late.
Cards on the table, I resent Giulio for insisting we live in backwaters Tuscany. On particularly discouraging days when nothing seems to have gone in my favour and I have to ask the person to slowly enunciate the sentence they’d like me to write, I want to scratch his eyes out. I know it’s not his fault that he lives in small town Italy or that he had the misfortune of being my other half – if you believe in that sort of thing – but sometimes I wish I could have picked an easier life. One where I lived, worked and died 15 minutes from where my mother and grandparents lived, married to a completely innocuous fellow Australian who spoke my language and understood my pop culture references.
Since no good comes from complaining, I have tried to process the resentment. And I have a few slithers of advice to help those of you who are in the same situation.
Refuse to pretend that everything is a-okay when you speak to your other half. Lying gets you nowhere and only serves to isolate you more. Giulio. knows how I feel and accepts it. On the flip side, it’s given him a complex, where he feels guilty all the time.
Remember that your feelings count too. You’re allowed to be unhappy and homesick. You’re allowed to want something different. The problems comes when you let those feelings become caustic and start lashing out at your partner. Be honest not bitter. If things get bitter, then maybe you need to work to find a solution you’re both happy with.
BE RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR OWN DESTINY
The original plans I had for my career have changed, but that’s the nature of longterm plans. I can’t blame Giulio for my career failures.
Rather than abandon your dreams, you need to find a workaround and set your sights on that. It’s an uphill battle creating your own career, but you don’t really have much of a choice. It’s make something of yourself or do nothing for eternity. Take the time to map out where you want to be and what you want to be doing. Then break it down into small, actionable goals and do them. It sounds so simple, but the only thing stopping you is you. Can you be bothered to really put the work in? If you spent half your day on YouTube, you probably won’t get anywhere fast.
FIND YOUR OWN REASONS FOR LOVING THE TOWN YOUR IN
Manciano doesn’t have a lot going for it, but I embrace the friendliness of its residents, the beauty of its natural surroundings and pure lifestyle and the DIY-awesomeness of my father-in-law. But more importantly, I try to remember that living in Italy means seeing the world. I have travelled to dozens of countries in Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Countries I would never have seen if I’d stayed in Australia, where even a flight to Sydney costs $300.
The experiences and opportunities that have arisen from expat life are the ones that stay front and centre when everything else goes to shit. Whatever you do, make friends, join a club, get out of the house. Force yourself to live the life you would have lived at home, no matter how hard it is. The more you have to love about your life, the less resentment you’ll feel.