Twenty Years Ago




 

This month, this week (or the next, the previous one? I kinda forgot the exact day), I’m celebrating a very special anniversary. Two anniversaries really.

The first one is a move that, among the many twists and turns that my life has taken, is the most definite and defining one.

In August 1998, I moved to the United States. I planned on staying one year, I ended up spending seven years in the country, and the consequences are still there today on many levels.

I don’t even know where to start.

Language first I guess, I became bilingual, and well, that’s something. Nowadays, while I speak French at home, I work in English, and I use it much more than my own native language in most social situations both online and offline.

I also became multicultural. Even if I’ve left the US 13 years ago, even if I may never go back, a part of it is still with me and will always be.

Also, and more importantly, that’s when I realized that the world, really was my playground. I know people say that a lot, it kinda has become a cliché, but it really has become true for me. Actually, I like to say that the world is my backyard rather than my playground (for reasons that are a bit off-topic here and that I can explain later if you care). I’m not talking about traveling here. I’ve been traveling since I was born, I’m really talking about being able to live pretty much anywhere I want to. Even if strangely, I didn’t “choose” to live in West Virginia – where I first arrived – every other place I decided to move to afterwards (Florida, Paris, back to my hometown and then Japan) was my choice.

Before the US, I never imagined that I could live more than two hours away from my hometown. Now, I live 10,000 km away.

Sure, it’s not all fun and games, just like many uprooted people, I have trouble really calling a place home, I don’t have many friends, or rather they’re spread all over the world, so I never see them, once every 10 years at best, some I may never see again. Being a foreigner is hard for all the reasons you can imagine. It’s also one of the most rewarding and educational experience.

I could talk about it in more details sooner or later, but in the end, my point today is that it all started 20 years ago these days when I stepped aboard that plane to Dulles.

 

My first house in the US, on Stewart Street in Morgantown, WV. A groundhog lived in the front yard!

 

The other life changing thing that happened right after, a few days after arriving in the US.

The internet!

My online life started at the same time that my international life.

At the time, the internet was not a common thing yet in France and it started to become common in American universities. Not everyone had a home computer yet – especially not foreign students – and I remember spending all these hours in the “computer lab”, this big room with 60 or so computers aligned along the wall and the internet opened my horizons as much as living abroad if not more in a sense. Or rather, both combined had a much stronger impact than if it had only been one or the other.

It really changed my life (and really of our lives) as much if not more as moving abroad.

So that’s pretty much it for today, just a tiny celebration of the moment when my life changed the most (until I became a dad?)

 

Riddle Avenue in Morgantown, WV, where I spent my very first day in the US (actually a year earlier, on vacation)

 


About David Billa

David was born and raised in the French South West. After a few years in the US and a few more in Paris, he finally settled down in Japan. He blogs here about his various experiences and travels, with an emphasis on his home country, France.

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