I just had a rousing discussion with my roommate right in the nick of time. After an exhausting day of navigating through Madrid, forcing myself to do everything in Spanish and finding my way around this large city, my mind was on nothing but how challenging life seems. I continued telling myself all day, as I again looked foolish using my weak spanish skills to perform simple tasks, "you are here for a reason. It will get easier and you are growing from this!". I was telling myself this, but that reason for being here was fading in my mind. Deep down I was longing for some familiarity and comfort; that is until I came back to my apartment and got wrapped up in yet another fascinating conversation with each of my roommates to remind me why I am taking a stab at living abroad. I preface by saying that I am not anti-American and I do acknowledge that there are problems with society all around the world. But my life has been molded by the culture of the United States, and my first stab at a career was the apitomy of what many people would describe as part of the problem America's capitalistic culture.
Corporate America. IBM software sales was my experience with it. It seems hard to believe that less than a year ago I was still plugging away at my deals, trying to sell my products to my various customers. My whole life was dictated by my company once I committed to the role. My day involved sitting at a desk in my home or in a hotel somewhere in MS or AL, trying helplessly to find purpose in the many tasks I was performing. I had barely any human contact, with the exception of occational team meetings in the office or the akward customer calls I drove hours to hold a meeting. I sat at a desk, at a computer, all alone, all day. Part of my discussion today with my roommate was about this issue and he showed me a clip online of a system IBM is looking to impliment that would further thrust it's employees into a virtual working environment. This is yet another example of an efficient way to do business now, saving money at the sacrifice of humans physically being in the same location. Our world is shifting towards this rapidly as technology becomes an essential tool to save large corporations a great deal of money. But what about the people? What about the individuals who are already being morphed into isolated robots? They are becoming more chained to their companies, having no division between work and home, with more tools to understand and the same expectations for results. People outside the US see Americans on a macrolevel as these programed robots who work, shop, eat, and work some more. Sure this phenominon is spreading, but as I live here in the third largest city in Europe, known for being the business hub of Europe, there is still so much culture, appreciation for life, human interaction. If for a moment I was begining to foget why I am here, why I am taking such a risk and trying something so profoundly different than what I was trained to do, I now remember, quite clearly that I am doing this to live my life independent from that kind of control and "virtual reality".
These converations are reminicent to the ones I had months ago while traveling around. We would sit in hostels, over beers, and I would both defend my country and commiserate about it. We all want to be proud of our roots and Americans get a whole lot of heat for how we do things and how we are effecting the world as a result. It isn't the individuals who have done all this. We are merely adapted to living our lives a certain way. That way was not for me, but I cannot criticize those who enjoy the life style and the fruits of thier labor. I love my friends and my family and many elements of our culture that I grew up with that bring me a warm, nostalgic feeling. But I am not there for a reason. I feel so divided. My mind often reverts back to feeling guilty for not being "productive" or using my training in the "proper way". But then I think of this new appreciation I have for the simplicity of living umungst a rich culture such as this one, taking care in preparing a meal and looking up at the people and the architecture as I stroll through the streets. I'm focused on living, not producing. One day I will have to commit to a vocation in order to afford a life for myself and a future family, but I will not do it in the capacity I did before. A corporation will not eat up the beauty of my life ever again for the sake satisfying consumeristic desires. That was a past life, and I now usher in the new, as akward and uncomfortable it may seem right now.