My clubbing buddy from Germany was sitting across from me at the food court when she declared this. And followed it up with, “why?”
We hadn’t seen each other in a long time, though the last time we’d met had actually been in Budapest. But I hadn’t moved here yet. In fact, I’d moved at pretty much the exact time she’d moved away, both of us trying another place in different corners of the world. I’d just told her that I was planning to move back, or at least hang out for a little while. Admittedly, this happened late last year, but not much changed in the meantime.
“Most people,” she reminded me. “Are trying to leave.”
She was older than me by a year and six months, and back then it really mattered. In a nutshell, I was still confined to school while she was out there tasting freedom. That was how we’d met. She, free as a bird, experiencing all the good stuff the town had to offer. Me, trying to negotiate curfews and nights out with my mother. It didn’t help that some of the places my German friends were taking me to had an interesting reputation, like the club in the next town over we’d termed the Sugar Daddy club. My parents knew too many people in the hospitality business. They knew where I was going if I gave them a name.
My clubbing buddy was mainly hanging out at the bar we’d met at, and at a club my best friend and I went to on Thursdays, and sometimes – if I could twist her arm, because she wasn’t a huge fan of The Hungarians, as she called them – also on Saturday nights. I valued my clubbing buddy’s opinion though, because a) the people you meet in high school tend to shape you in several ways so that the role they played can stay with you for life and b) because she and her boyfriend belonged to the group of people who helped me find, define, and embrace my heritage.
She was 100% right. Everyone I knew, had met or heard of was either already gone or packing their bags. The only people staying here seemed to be those taking care of relatives, or those with children still in school. And she genuinely wanted to know. Back when we met I’d always loudly proclaimed that once I left a place that was it, I was done with it forever.
It’s funny, when I lived in England we’d joke that half of Britain was in France while half of France was spread across the UK. Yet both countries seemed to accept that their respective land had value to others. The general consensus really did seem to be, “of course you came here. It’s a beautiful place.” Not so in Hungary. At least not with the people I met. The Hungarians I know abroad greeted my decision with a mixture of, “you’re doing what?!” And, “you really sure about that?” Not to mention my mentor’s comment of, “I would really think about that if I were you.” The locals were more vocal about it, listing a myriad of reasons why there were smarter choices to make and why this country is going to the dogs.
It wasn’t the first time I’d heard that either. In fact, it was the exact same thing when I came here for college. My best friend told me already then that everyone was trying to leave, everyone only had bad things to say. But my enthusiasm about the place made her see things in a new light.
Sometimes I actually like to think that’s my mission. When I’m down and wondering what on God’s green earth it is that I’m actually doing, it’s a nice game to play. Try and give the people around you back a measure of enthusiasm. Not lording it over them. But when you’re trying to figure out where you’re going, take a minute to think about how many people you’re making happy. Because everyone does. Even if they don’t notice.