Three years ago during this time of year I was busy making preparations to go to the US. When I resigned from my job, applied for a visa, said goodbye to my family and friends, I explained that I need to move to another country in order to be together with my husband. That’s true, and there’s nothing wrong about it. But it annoyed me when I sense how some people assumed that it is only natural for me to follow my husband around, simply because I’m the wife. I’m annoyed because that assumption holds the notion that my sole responsibility is to be a dutiful wife, and that my existence in the foreign land is only defined by my identity as an “expat wife.” No, thank you very much. My husband and I need each other’s company and support, but we are still two different individuals with our own interests and aspirations.
That said, I admit that in the beginning it was hard for me to show that I too have a mission here in the US other than to be an accompanying spouse. I was jobless, had no friends, and didn’t belong to any social group or activities. I tried to keep my spirit high by actively looking for a job (in a bleak US economy), volunteering at a local non-profit, and writing some newspaper articles so I can feel productive. But the first couple of months were rough.
During those difficult months, a movie called Julie and Julia was released. That’s when I first learned about Julia Child (yes she’s very famous in America and in the cooking world, but since I wasn’t familiar with either one I’ve got to be excused for not knowing her before the movie). The movie was based on her autobiography, My Life in France. It’s a beautiful story about how she moved to France to join her husband Paul who was stationed there by his office (the US Information Service). In the beginning, Julia didn’t know a word in French and she knew nothing about France. But then she fell in love with French cooking and with the country. She learned the language, and also enrolled in the Cordon Bleu – a very prestigious cooking school. Eventually, she became a very influential chef who introduced the French cooking to the Americans.
To me, the story was really uplifting because it was about how an expat woman discovered her own passion and excelled in it. In addition, it was also inspiring to learn about Julia’s relationship with Paul. When you read the book, you can feel their love for each other.
Yes, Julia moved to France in order to be with Paul, but she also had her own calling; to learn French cooking and to write a cookbook about it. And Paul really motivated her in her endeavor (although she was new to cooking world, let alone French cooking). Using his skills in photography, Paul took pictures of Julia’s cooking and provided illustrations for her cookbooks. Julia, on the other hand, was also there for him, supported him in his daily battles with the Washington bureaucrats. In short, they were depending on each other but at the same time they’re still independent individuals. They’re complementing each other but each of them still has their own identity. Most importantly, they were equals, and no one was under the shadow of the other.
“How fortunate we are at this moment in our lives! Each doing what he most wants, in a marvelously adapted place, close to each other, superbly fed and housed, with excellent health, and few interruptions.” – Paul in 1967. Source: Marilyn Mellowes. “Julia Child.” PBS.org, quoted from Paul and Julia Child Marriage Profile.
This is one moving expression of love. And this is the kind of relationship that I hope to cultivate with my husband. I’m there for him and he’s there for me. I’m supporting him in his daily efforts, and he’s doing exactly the same for me. We’re helping each other to reach a common dream, but we are free to have each of our own aspirations.
And once again folks, although I have yet to become a successful chef like Julia Child, I’m here in the US not because I’m just a trailing expat wife 🙂
Happy Valentine, may you find lots of inspiring love stories and most importantly, may those inspirations become a reality in your love life.
Lots of love from BooksBikesandBeyond 🙂
Images are taken from the book, My Life in France.