Growing up I resented my home country. I thought that having been born in Croatia, the world saw me as an end-of-the-rope, pathetic, never-going-to-make-it-in-life loser. I felt sorry for myself. I felt angry. Why couldn’t I have been born with a passport that meant something in this world?
I left Croatia wanting to never go back. Ironically though, it seems that the last thirteen years since I left Croatia have also, in a sense, been a journey of learning how to accept my home country. In the States, Croatia was considered exotic. There when I said I was from Croatia, I got a ‘wow’ instead of a ‘boo’. But I still didn’t want it; I needed to completely break free from Croatia to be able to become who I am today.
Upon deciding to get off the hamster wheel my feelings about Croatia made it double the hard to also decide to come and spend a year there. I say a year because I still grow incredibly uneasy if I think I might have moved back to Croatia.
Croatia is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to. It is blessed with a perfect climate, particularly compared to other places I’ve lived in. It has so much going for it. And yet it has so much wrong with it too. All places do, but elsewhere I’ve lived, these things never bothered me. In Croatia, they do. This is probably because in Croatia they are mine. In Croatia, when someone takes a bribe or when a reckless driver does a way too-close-for-comfort overtake or even when someone does a rather harmless act like flipping someone else off, they piss me off because deep down I feel that these acts somehow speak about me too. And how dare they prove to the world that, yes, I am an end-of-the-rope, pathetic, never-going-to-make-it-in-life loser?
For years I have prided myself for not living in Croatia. I wrapped myself in a living-abroad-cloak and floated around wearing it like a protective shield. Years ago, I think Croatia would have swallowed me like it swallowed my early artistic endeavors. Today, things are different because I am so different.
As my husband drives down a beautiful, wide road from Zagreb (Croatian capital) to the Adriatic coast I look at the gentle hills surrounding us. I don’t ever remember seeing Croatia so green. It looks delicious. I want to scoop Croatia up and wrap myself in it. I want to share it with my son. Something stirs within me. It strikes me that I can also wear this country like a cloak; it is mine – no doubt about it! Maybe all the other silly things that happen within its borders or are done in its name do not matter in my relationship with Croatia after all?
Green hills give way to a rocky coastal range. We drive through a long tunnel and into the land of karst. My beloved sea appears in the distance like a mirage.