05.04.2017Armenian by Birth
Making It In Armenia: Pretending
I was excited to move into my own apartment in Yerevan. I was enjoying exploring the city and living in the center was going to make that even easier. For a little while this was true. I was spending all of my time out of my apartment so the reality of living alone had not set in. Then I stayed home one day and started to get hungry, but when I opened the fridge it was empty. The thought of going to the grocery store became the most daunting task I could imagine.
I had witnessed the differences in customer service when I was with my host family and I knew the pressure of having to explain myself in Armenian would make me struggle even more. I ended up asking a friend to go with me the first time. It was the little tasks like this that quickly began to add up. I was not going to be able to bring a friend every time. I started to wonder how I would be able to live a normal life in Armenia.
As I started to fall out of my honeymoon phase with Armenia I was confronted by a difficult realization. I was starting to not like things, but how could I possibly admit that. Everyone that told me I was foolish for going to Armenia would be right. Everyone that loved Armenia would think I was insane. I was starting to doubt myself for making the decision to move. If I admitted this, it became real. When someone asked me how things were, I would intentionally leave out the parts that were bothering me when I answered.
I still loved everything as far as they knew. I can remember being on the phone and feeling so sad, but telling a friend how great of a decision it was to move. While most people do not like to talk about it, I knew I would go through the expat depression. I did not know how hard it would be to accept it once it came. For several weeks I fought this feelings; pretending to be happy while being so confused inside.
Then came the phase of foreignness. I have mentioned before the looks I would get when I was somewhere people did not expect me to be. At first they felt innocent. After all, Armenia is a very homogeneous country. It seemed natural that people would not be used to me. Soon these looks became hurtful. It was not that the looks changed, but because I was feeling so uncomfortable, I began to interpret them differently. Every time someone noticed me I felt like I was not welcome. It was one more thing that made me feel like I could not fit in here.
The feeling of being an outsider was something I just could not shake. Originally being different is what made people interested in me. Everyone was curious about what I was doing in Armenia. The excitement of being different quickly wore off. Now I wanted to blend in. I wanted to feel at home.
This feeling became overwhelming and almost ended my trip. I had reached the point where all I wanted to do was return to somewhere familiar and comfortable. At one point I stopped leaving my apartment and watched all six seasons of Game of Thrones in one week. My goal was then only to finish my project and leave as quickly as possible. I had given into my hopelessness.
On my lowest night I was out with a group of friends and actually having a great time. Then the part of the night rolled around that always sent me home. Everything became Armenian. Everyone else jumped up to go dance because this is what they loved. They grew up with this. I felt as much like an օտար as I possibly could. I was so upset because I was finally having some fun and I felt like my foreignness took that away from me.
I made it a block before I had to sit because I was starting to break down. I tried calling a few people back home, but no one was free to talk. I sat there for a while and just thought about how much I did not want to be in Armenia and how great it would be if I went home. I could not take it anymore. I had to talk to someone, so I went back inside and grabbed one of my friends. I told her the whole story about how unhappy I was.
She listened for a while, and then she finally confronted me. You chose to come here. You knew you would be different. You knew it would be hard. If you don’t like it then you either go home or you find a way to make it better. Do you want to go home? This was the honest slap in the face that I needed. There were many lows to come after this night, but the thought of finding my own way stuck with me. Finishing my project was no longer the end goal. My goal was to make it in Armenia. I had no idea what that meant, but I knew I would know when it happened.
Other articles of the author
Making It In Armenia
Making It In Armenia: The Tourist