Allergic to America
My parents immigrated to an America of unbridled hope and prosperity. Forty years later, I discovered a work culture so stressful and unbalanced it made me physically ill. So I left.
Illustrations by Colleen Frakes
A few weeks ago, I found myself strolling through Hyde Park with an English friend. It was one of those rare, glorious, sunny London days. The water of the Serpentine glimmered as people lounged along its banks, having low, murmuring, exceedingly civilized conversations. My friend, who grew up in this city, took a deep breath and closed his eyes. “Do you smell it?” he asked. “That smell—such an English autumn smell, sweet and woodsy and damp. I’ve known it since I was five. Isn’t it lovely?” When I inhaled as he did, I found myself unable to share his delight. I suddenly remembered the joy of hiking in a park or forest of the northeastern U.S., breathing in the refreshingly crisp, almost biting fall air, gazing in rapture at the fiery elms and oaks as dry leaves crackled underfoot. Before I could smile back at my friend and continue the day, I had to shake off a pang of sorrow at having abandoned the country of my birth.
For someone like me, the daughter …