The same but different

In the past few months, I have become very aware of how much I missed by being abroad for almost all of my 20s. I’ve been taking the metro more in Boston lately, and when I look at these young(er) people, I feel like they are living a life I will never know anything about. Then, I was at a conference last week near where my parents live so I saw some of my high school friends. When talking about first jobs or first dates, I realized I have nothing similar to share.
I think some of it is just missing that young single life I didn’t really have. Meeting your husband at 21 makes your 20s look a lot different than if you find him at 30. But it’s also the fact that I was never young in the states. I mean, I’m still young, but not the carefree young. There was a very short window of time, only a few months really, that I was working, single, and old enough to go to bars. And even that was tempered by knowing that I’d be leaving for France.
While I spent my early 20s broke like most, there was the added stress about staying in the country, and that makes you think about money in a very different way. The joys and frustrations of figuring out the complexities of French administration and immigration is not something you can bond with people over if they’ve never left the state.
It’s also a pop culture thing. It’s almost as if I wish I didn’t have this extra experience that makes it hard to connect.  I missed so much in terms of music, movies, televisions… I try to remind myself that traveling around Europe > watching the Bachelor, but it’s hard when trying to make new friends and I realize I have no idea what they’re talking about.
It’s funny because a year ago I felt like I belonged. It felt so right being here. And while I still love my job, and think this move was a great idea, the longer I’m here, the more different I start to feel again… sigh. I guess it’s true that there’s no real “going home” for an expat.

Toddler creativity

Nearly every night after my son has gone to bed, I sit on my bed, trying to tap into my creativity to write stories that others will actually want to pay money to read. Monkey has an interesting take on creativity that I’ve been trying to remember as I stare at my keyboard in frustration.

He imitates everything. Then, he changes something and makes it his own. He doesn’t try to create something from nothing. His favorite Sesame Street episode involves one of the human characters turning into a cookie. As he spins around, saying “Hey! I’m a cookie!” my son does the same thing. Then one day, wrapped in a towel, he spun around saying “Hey! I’m a paper towel!” How did he come up with that? It was pretty hilarious, and he knew it. He seems innately aware of what will make grownups laugh the most.

He’s at the age where he will pretend to eat play dough cookies. Actually, almost anything can be a cookie – a pillow, a sock, a ball. He doesn’t wait for someone to tell him what to do, he makes it up as he goes along.  He’s using his imagination more and more every day. I am so incredibly excited to see it grow.

Writing is a bit different. I can’t act out my stories, I need to write them down. But maybe I should be following his lead and just go with whatever is in front of me. I don’t need to write the most original story, something no one has seen before. There are genres for a reason. People want to know what to expect when they buy a book. Monkey will watch the same video over and over, never bored, but taking something new from it each time. Readers do that too. They read the same type of books, over and over, because they want something familiar, with a few new twists.

At the end of the day, whatever I make will always be new because it’s mine. Monkey isn’t doing anything different than kids all over the world at his age, but because he’s the one doing it, it’s unique.

(Though as his mother, of course I think he is extra special unique and doing it better than anyone else. Hopefully my parents think the same when they read my books!)