The Double Life of a Diaspora Greek
In my journey through life, I have noticed an interesting pattern: when things get too much, Greece becomes the break away refuge for me. The beauty of having a double life is that you can escape one side of it for a spell and find sanctuary in the other.
I have used Greece as an escape hatch more than once. First to get away from extremely overprotective even abusive parents. They felt easier letting their young daughter go away to Europe for a stint on her own. After all she was going back “home.” After graduating college, I did my gap year in Europe starting out in Greece. Greece proved a life saver for me during that period of time as it helped establish my independence emotionally and physically away from an extremely smothering family. Second time Greece came to the rescue was when during the heigh of the 90s recession, after graduating with a Masters in the humanities, it allowed me to establish my professional life as an instructor of English. I was a dime a dozen English teacher in the States. In Greece I was a fine import with knowledge and fluency to a culture and language that was very much in demand. I didn’t feel like an unemployed loser like my friends back home; I felt like a real young professional.
Now Greece has come to my third and perhaps final rescue. I am on a sabbatical from life. Here again in good ol’ Greece. When the pressures of a middle class working mother in middle age have reached the breaking point, Greece is there again.
By far, it’s this last time that the benefits of having Greece as a time out are really kicking in. With two aggressively rebellious teenagers, a marriage that is getting moldy, and a job that has become routine, a stay in Greece is the perfect prescription to cure madness, stress, and spiritual malaise. I am so grateful that I have this plan B. It might be the difference between death via heart attack or mental illness via monotony and anxiety.
I believe Greece serves this function for more than one hybrid Greek. Greece, in all its romanticized glory, gives you the clean slate to envision your life all over again. For the particularly challenging times of my life, the very schema of Greece, the possibility that a Plan B exists, has provided so much psychic relief. It is a miracle to have options these days. The potential that we as Greek hyphen-something or other have to recreate ourselves, to take stock of our choices, even just to take a break is huge.
I don’t know about you, but I literally transform into another person when I am in Greece. The stress goes away, I have more time to myself , I can focus on the simple things. I can feel the weight of one day as it passes and can actually measure it. Like right now, I see the clouds churning over Gamila mountain in Epiros listening to the mountain spring as it pushes through the fountain spout in the village square. I know, I know: I can never really escape my problems back in home number 1. The problems and the stress of my “real” life in New York City don’t really go away when I am living my double life in Greece, but hey, do I need the break? Fuggetaboutid.
Greece as a canvas to reconnect to one’s true self, to restablish roots, to come back to what is true is a trope in film and literature by now. Shirley Valentine, The Storm, My Life in Ruins. We know that the double life ends eventually– Shirley gets reconnected with her husband, Nick finds the joy in living that escaped him to face death heroically, Toula winds up extending her stay as a tour guide/ English instructor. We all find the strength to go on with the business of living. Thanks to the jaunt, the stay in Greece. In times of crisis, we always have Greece. The double life pays off. You have time to quit the stage and pace back and forth behind the scenes. It allows you to get your mind and heart together to make a brilliant come back. Thank God I have a double life as a Greek American. Complicated, conflicted, rushed but worthwhile. So when things get to be too much, go live your double life in Greece.
Thank God, Doxa to Theo whenever it gets too hard, we have Greece.