Becoming Bi-Continental: Redefining Key Concepts to Help You Move Forward
Back in 1999, I came up with the idea/dream/vision of leading what I called my Bi-continental Life. I was living in Turku, Finland at the time teaching English at the University there. I had been hired on a temporary contract for a year although I ended up staying there for 2 and a half in total. About halfway through, my friend Kat came to visit me from the US. It was in conversations with her that the Bi-Continental idea was born. There were people in the US that we knew talked about bi-coastal–having a home on both sides of the US. So why not think bigger?
I enjoyed aspects of living in Europe, but I liked being back in the US too. So I decided, why limit myself? I could have it all. I could have a home in Europe and a home in the US. Now let me assure you this was a pretty new way of thinking for me. And if I thought ‘practically’, there was really no reason to believe this was a do-able option. Especially at the salary I was making at the time. But I knew even then that life is FULL of options and that having a clear vision was the place to start. I knew there were plenty of people living their dreams, so why couldn’t that be true for me as well?
And in the next 10 years, it did become true although maybe not in the exact way I had thought. I ended up making a life for myself in Sweden. I got a good job, I eventually bought an apartment in downtown Stockholm (this was the first time I owned property so this was BIG!). And every 6 months I went back to California and stayed for 3 – 5 weeks. Now, I didn’t have one home there. But I had places where I stayed that felt like home every time I went.
I did that for a total of 9 years. And at the end of that time, I started feeling like I wanted to spend more time in California. So I did a test. I took a leave of absence for a year, rented out my apartment and came to live in California. And during those months, I realized that the idea of the Bi-Continental that I had (two homes in two countries) was not at all what I really wanted.
It took a little while before I understood it all. I was actually a little confused when I started feeling the urge to sell my apartment in Stockholm. Hadn’t I wanted 2 homes? Hadn’t I wanted to become Bi-Continental? And now that was so close, how could I just ‘give that up’? I think other people were confused too. I had been talking about this forever and then suddenly, I was just ready to change my mind. How could that be? Didn’t I need that home to fulfill that Bi-Continental Life dream?
The most amazing thing was that this decision was NOT a hard one for me. It was actually one of the most clear choices I have made in my life. And I can say I have struggles with a large number of choices—making pro and cons lists, talking to people over and over, deliberating back and forth. There was NONE of that this time. I was unsure for a while, but I just let it be that way.
Once I did KNOW, I knew that it would be emotional to let go of my apartment, to let go of my job, to let go of an extremely comfortable daily life with a great number of friends and colleagues who I love. I also realized that although I knew that would be emotional, it also felt right so it wasn’t that hard. The hardest part, actually, was letting go of the IDEA of the Bi-continental Life. I had dreamed of it for so long. How could I just suddenly let it go?
And then it hit me one day. I realized that all along I had been so rigid with my definition of Bi-Continental that I didn’t know that really I HAD been living it for years. Not just KIND of living it, but REALLY living it. I AM Bi-Continental. And it has NOTHING to do with HAVING a home in two places. It has, instead, EVERYTHING to do with the fact that I FEEL at home in two places. So no wonder it was easy to see my apartment. I have already achieved my dream. I had just forgotten to hit that essential refresh button so I was using the right definition.
What does this story bring up for you? Is there somewhere in your life that you are living with an old definition of what you want or who you want to be?