Disclaimer: Long & Serious Post ahead. Simply, just lost in thought....you have been warned;)
Wow, it's truly hard to believe that It's already been exactly one week to the day that I have been back home in Sunny Florida. Better yet, back home in the good ol' U.S.A. Being back home is a feeling I don't believe I could ever put into words. As much as I love Oslo, Norway and now consider that to be my second home, sometimes (No matter where you were born and raised) there is just no place like home. It's a feeling of being completely in control of your life, knowing the city streets like the back of your hand, knowing the ins and outs of the way things function, and really, kinda ultimately just giving you that extra sense of certainty of who you are, where you came from, and where you belong. It really is the little things you miss the most (I don't think I have ever been so happy to see something as simple as a Bath & Body works wall flower before..haha!)
It's truly great getting back to into the swing of things slowly but surely, and experiencing a flood of appreciation and emotion all over again as If I'm experiencing America for the very first time, however, the most unexpected and strangest thing has happened to me. Something I never saw coming or ever could have imagined would have happened....I experienced the biggest culture shock of my entire life...IN MY OWN COUNTRY!!
Honestly, I debated on whether or not I should write this post, afraid of maybe being too open and getting too personal, in fear that some may take it the wrong way. The longer I thought about it, the more I just knew I had to blog about it. I finally decided to let my guard down and get real upfront and personal with you all, because I think It's important for people to be exposed to different ways of thinking, and keeping an open mind to how other countries and cultures choose to live and how they function. This has actually been a topic extremely heavy on my heart since moving to Norway, It's just that moving back to America finally gave me that little push I needed to voice my concerns, but also my love and appreciation.
This past week has most definitely been a very busy week getting settled into our new place (let alone a different country). Aside from this whole last week being new, exciting, and yet chaotic...it's also been a bit confusing. From the time I stepped off the airplane from Norway and landed here back home in America (Florida), my own thoughts and questions have been surrounding me almost constantly, plaguing me with concern. "Has it always been like this?", "Maybe I just never noticed it before", "Maybe, I'm just so used to Norway", "Maybe I lived in a bubble for the past three years", "Or maybe, living abroad for the past three years was a real eye opener." I'm not quite sure, but it's definitely a bit of a lost feeling. I once saw myself as the "All American" type of girl, and never had any reason to question or doubt the world that I lived in and was surrounded by daily, but a different view point and perspective has now set in since living abroad, and it's become very obvious since moving back home.
Please do not get me wrong, I absolutely LOVE my home country. America is one of the most thriving and influential countries in the world, and I couldn't be more proud to be an American...especially when it comes to the food! haha...I just LOVE all of our food options and the diversity in the cuisine here in the States. Can you tell I'm just a tad bit of a foodie?? haha. However, I can't help but to think, there must be SOMETHING more we can do about topics that really matter and concerns that should raise a bit more awareness in our own country. The one thing that has almost haunted my thoughts and has tugged on my heart strings since being back home is the very prominent and obvious inequality gap. This is something I have grown to no longer be used to seeing and experiencing, and can't help but to wonder if there is just something more we can do as a nation to minimize this growing middle margin between the wealthy and the poor.
The truth is, If I never would had moved overseas I sadly, and most likely would have never taken the time to even concern myself with this growing issue, because it was what I was used to, I would have known no better. Now the fact is that I "DO" know better, and it leaves me to question many things in our society. For the past almost three years, I have had the privilege of getting to experience living in a country where an inequality gap almost feels non existent. People are in no way desperate, there is no such thing as children being sent to school hungry or with holes in their shoes because Their parents cant afford the basic necessities in life, and everyone grows up with the exact same opportunities, no matter what financial background you were born into. Higher education is free, medical is free, fathers and mothers receive one year of paid maternity leave, and People are taken care of, therefor they are not left to feel hopeless and desperate, leaving the countries crime rate to be extremely low and ultimately feel safe and prosperous. Parents do not go to sleep at night wondering how they are going to feed their children, and jobs can not be lost at a drop of a dime. In the past two days since being home, I have come across three different people working two to three jobs a day just to make ends meet, to buy a car to get around, or to finally own a home after being well into their fifties, in fear that someday illness might set in and would lose everything due to them not being able to cover possible medical bills. This to me was heart wrenching, as I have now grown accustomed to a whole different reality and working class mentality that I know exists. A reality where people are not in a constant state of stress, due to not having any sense of security. Friends of mine and people that I know are graduating with a lifetime of debt here in America after completing their masters or bachelors, and in fear that they might not ever be able to pay off their loans or debt in their lifetime, whereas my friends in Norway are graduating with little to no debt at all paving them to quickly enter the work force and begin their careers on a solid foundation. These are most definitely issues and concepts that seem almost foreign to me now. Everybody deserves a sense of security and to be rewarded when you prove to be a hard working, and contributing member of society. In no way, am I meaning to compare the two countries, but I do believe Norway has introduced me to a healthy level of concern when it comes to inequality differences here in America, and It is just my hope that one day I can see my fellow Americans be granted the same opportunities as many other developed countries .
We were founded and built on the idea that with hard work and dedication, you can achieve anything and be anything you wish to be here in America, and the rule still applies. This is what makes America truly great among many other reasons. We Americans are known to love our communities, and country, and always pull together in times of need. When we fall down, we help each other to get back up. This is the main reason I'm most proud to be an American. The fact that we treat our neighbors like friends, the fact that we really care for one another, and the fact that we are ALWAYS willing to lend a helping hand in times of need, my only wish is that we now come together and help to find ways to minimize this gap of inequality, and help to assure all children that they are growing up with the exact same opportunity as the child born down the street. Never be scared to walk a day in someone else shoes, or to get to know someone's story. It just might be that they are left to be faced with a heart wrenching whole different reality every single day than what you or I are used to. This is what helps us to grow as individuals, learn more about each other, appreciate one another, and most importantly, stay connected. America, I love you...I just think there is a lot of room in our American hearts and within our borders for little changes, especially if it means helping to change the lives for many others. Although the culture shock set in heavily at first and was completely unexpected, it just helped me to want to understand more and grow as a person and more importantly, grow with my country.
When I first decided to start my own blog, I told myself I would stay away from possibly sensitive subjects, and never voice my opinion on certain matters so openly, however I just couldn't keep that the case. I now feel almost in a way obligated to share my experiences of living abroad with others, because maybe there is a girl out there just like me. A girl that was unaware of what exists beyond our borders, and now has a little light shed onto an issue that she have never known existed. Maybe she didn't even know countries like Norway even existed, but now, she has the knowledge to pursue her own exploration.
As a lifestyle blogger, I'm often openly talking about the latest and best products, the newest fashion, the travels, the restaurants, etc. Although this is a part of my life and I enjoy it (of course, we all enjoy these things in life) I didn't want people to think that this was "ALL" that I am and most definitely did not want my younger readers to be so heavily influenced into thinking that materialism is everything, or defines you, because it doesn't. It's okay to like and want nice things, But I think it's important for us to also get to know each other as individual through our opinions, experiences, etc. In a world full of sometimes make believe and materialism, it's important to shed some light on things that really matter. This is why I'm choosing to stay as open, candid and real with you as I possibly can be throughout all of my blogging. Lets all respect each others opinions and learn from one another, it's what makes the world a more fun, accepting, and interesting place!
Now, about this American Chinese take out that has been staring at me since I walked through the door....Drool!!! Oh, America, I've missed you...